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Now Remdy 

By David Saville Mussey 

By Armittead C. Qotdon 

By Louis Howland 

By Henry Jones Ford 

Further volumes wiXL follow at short intervals, the 











Published April, 1020 


Little material is available for a biography of 
Alexander Hamilton beyond that collected by his 
son^ John Church Hamilton; and his grandson, 
Allan McLane Hamilton. Much that once existed 
was lost. Tuckennan^s "Life of General Philip 
Schuyler^' relates that many letters from Hamilton 
and other poUtical papers were burned by a son of 
one of Schuyler's executors, because he regarded 
them as containing expressions too personal to be 
exposed to any risk of publicity. The loss to 
American history is as great as that inflicted by 
Charles Thomson, secretary of the Gontiaental 
Congress, when he destroyed his memoirs for a 
hke reason. A bowdlerized style of writing history 
and biog^^hy waa oace in vYgue that Zie J. 
suppression of truth seem actually meritorious, and 
damage was done that can never be repaired. Ham- 
ilton's reputation has suffered greatly by it. His 
career was too vivid and salient; his statesmanship 
too incisive, his self-revelation too candid to admit 
of the bowdlerizmg process, and he cannot be judged 
fairly unless all is brought out and put in the scales. 
Such has been my aim in the present work. My 




special acknowledgments are due to my friend; Mr. 
Charles R. WilliamS; of Princeton, for his care in 
verifying references, in correcting the proofs, and 
for helpful criticism. 

Pbingbton, March 23, 192a 




II. A Picked-Up Education 13 

III. The Outbreak of the Revolution ... 24 

IV. In the State Miltha 39 

V. At Headquartebs 55 

VI. The Conduct op the War 65 

Vn. First Essays in StatesbAanship 80 

VIII. Alliance with a Patroon Family ... 97 

IX. A Breach with Washington 114^ 

X. The Start Toward National Union '. . 129^ 

XI. The Crubibling of the Confederation . 143 ^ 

Xn. Law Practice 159 

Xin. The National Movement 172 - 

XIV. The Wonderful Year , . . .* 186 

XV. A Breach in the Constitutional Scheme 206 " 

XVI. Hamilton's Recommendations Defeated 223 

XVn. A Fateful Bargain 242 




XVni. The Anti-Hamilton Campaign 260 

XIX. The Influence of the French Revolution 278 

XX. Retirement from Office 292 

XXI. Private Direction of Public Affairs . 301 

XXII. The Breach with Adams 315 

XXIII. The Duel with Burr 329 

XXIV. Apparent Failure 346 

XXV. Revised Estimates 357 

Index 375 








At present the term West Indies suggests something 
foreign and remote. Such was not the case when 
Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis, one of the 
chain of islands known as the Lesser Antilles. The 
British possessions in this quarter were considered 
to be an integral part of the newer England that had 
been planted in the western world. A compilation 
of laws published in 1704, for the use of "gentlemen 
trading to or concerned in her Majesty's plantar 
tions," mentions them in the order, Virginia, Jamai- 
ca, Barbados, Maryland, New England, New York, 
Carolina. In our own time the Lesser Antilles seem 
rather farther away than Europe, since a quick and 
regular ferry has been established across the Atlan- 
tic. But in the colonial period intercourse between 
the Antilles and the mainland was easier than be- 
tween the different colonies on the mainland. The 
brigantines, which were the usual means of convey- 
ance, made the voyage with speed and comfort, as 
compared with the conditions of land travel at that 


time. People looking about for places in which to 
settle would naturally include the West Indies in 
their survey of American opportunities. Thus it 
was that the Reverend Hugh Knox, who did so 
much for Hamilton's early education, found his 
way there. He arrived in America from Ireland in 
1753, studied for the ministry imder the Reverend 
Aaron Burr, at Newark, New Jersey, and after or- 
dination went to St. Croix as pastor to the settlers 
there. To view Hamilton's birthplace as it was 
then regarded, Nevis should be thought of simply as 
an outlying American colony. 

Nevis is one of the group known as the Leeward 
Islands, the northernmost of the Lesser Antillra. 
It has an area of only fifty square miles, almost 
round in form, the centre, a peak of 3,200 feet, rising 
so gradually that, viewed from the sea, the island 
looks like a perfect cone. Settled originally from 
St. Kitts, Nevis has been a British colony since 
1628. Here Alexander Hamilton was bom, January 
11, 1757. 

At that time the West Indies figured grandly in 
the world's affairs. With slave labor and with the 
demand then existing for their products, the islands 
were reservoirs of wealth for whose possession all the 
powers of western Europe had contended, produc- 
ing the diversity of national ownership that has 
come down to our own times. The great planters 
lived in magnificent style. Nowhere probably in 


the western world was there such a display of luxuri- 
otis dresS; fine equipage; and profuse hospitality as 
in the West Indian capitals. The fame of this 
grandeur was world-wide. It was a theme that in- 
spired poetic fancy, and the great West Indian 
staple was the subject of an epic that ranked as a 
notable poem in its day, but is now preserved from 
oblivion only by references to it in Boswell's Life oj 
Johnson. The author. Doctor James Grainger, 
while on a visit to the West Indies, married the 
widow of a Nevis planter. He wrote a poem in 
four books on the cultivation of the sugar-cane, 
which was published in England in 1764. His ac- 
count of the way in which the cane suffered from 
attacks of vermin began with a line over which 
Doctor Johnson made merry: 

"Now, Muse, let*s sing of rats.*' 

But this appeared only in the first edition, and the 
poem was received with so much favor that piratical 
editions of it were printed. Grainger eventually 
settled in St. Kitts, where he died in 1766. Hamil- 
ton, who was then nine years old, must have known 
the poet, as St. Kitts and Nevis are so close together 
that they form one commimity. With the decay of 
the sugar interest the social grandeur of Hamil- 
ton's age passed away. The great stone mansions 
of the wealthy planters were built with a solidity 
that might have insured their perpetuity in any 


other climate, but with the decline of prosperity 
many became untenanted, windows would be broken, 
there would be no one to close the storm-shutters, 
and, when the tremendous blasts of a West Indian 
hurricane gained admittance to the interior, away 
would go the roof, and only the walls would be left 
standing, soon to be buried in tropical thickets. 
Now Uzards frisk and land-crabs scuttle in the ruins 
of houses that were brilHant social centres in Ham- 
ilton's day. 

A circumstance that was brought up against 
Hamilton in his political career — particularly by- 
John Adams — was the illegitimacy of his birth. 
The bare legal fact is indisputable, but it is far from 
meaning what that fact would ordinarily imply. It 
was a result of the lax conditions of the times, which 
produced irregular social consequences in all the 
American colonies, and it was the habit to make 
allowances for them. One may be sure that the 
great patroon, General Schuyler, would never have 
given his daughter to Hamilton if a social stigma 
had actually rested upon him. Scottish and Hugu&- 
not famines were prominent in the British occupa- 
tion of the Lesser Antilles, and Alexander Hamilton 
came of both these stocks. Among the Huguenot 
famihes was one originally named Faucette, which 
became EngKshed as Fawcett. John Fawcett, who 
settled in Nevis, was a medical practitioner until 
his gains were large enough to enable him to retire 



^from professional work and live as a wealthy planter. 
His wife Mary, of whose family there is apparently 
no record, was twenty years younger and had 
means of her own. Th^ built a great house on 
their countiy estate and had also a town house for 
occupancy when the Captain-General was holding 
1 his official court in Nevis and the fashionable season 
■ was at its height. After twenty years of married 
'life, when Doctor Fawcett had become gouty and 
irritable, his wife demanded and obtained a separate 
maintenance. The only child left at home at the 
time of the separation was Rachel, bom after her 
sisters had grown up. The mother moved to an 
estate she owned on St. Kitts, taking with her 
Rachel, then four years old. Great care was taken 
with Rachel's education, and she was proficient in 
languages and in the young-lady accomplishments 
of the day — ^painting, singing, and abUity to play 
the harp and the guitar. She is described as having 
fair hair with a reddish tinge, sparkling gray eyes, 
a complexion of the marked whiteness which seems 
almost peculiar to the sheltered gentlewomen of the 
tropics, with features finely modelled and full of 
vivacity and charm. She became the mother of 
Alexander Hamilton, but that was after an imhappy 
ejtperience producing conditions from which she 
escaped by an irregular union. 

When she was sixteen her mother arranged for 
her a marriage with John Michael Levine, a Dane of 

wealth and social position, who had come to St. 
Croix with the idea of buying an estate there and 
settling down to the life of a planter. The wedding 
was a fashionable event, followed by a trip to 
Europe, Mrs. Fawcett accompanying the bridal 
couple. After remaining long enough to see her 
daughter presented at court and splendidly received 
in Copenhagen society, Mrs. Fawcett returned to 
the West Indies, the Le\Tnes following some months 
after. Meanwhile the yotmg bride had had some 
revulsion of feeling which turned her against her 
husband. Watching her chance, she ran away to 
her mother, boarding a ship just as it was leaving 
St. Croix for St. Kitts, while her husband was at- 
tending some state function. The differences be- 
tween them — whatever they were — were never set- 
tled, and she never returned to her husband, but a 
boy bom after the separation was turned over to 
the father's care while still a small infant. 

After some years of the forlorn life of a gi 
widow the yotmg woman met James Hamilton and 
the two fell deeply in love. He was the fourth son 
of Alexander Hamilton, of Grange, in Ayrshire, 
Scotland, who waa the fifteenth in descent from 
David Hamilton, who had a charter of land from ; 
his imcle, Alan Hamilton, of Lethberd, confirmed by 
the overlord, Archibald, Earl of Douglas, January 29 
1411. Like many another cadet of ancient Scottisl 
, James Hamilton had emigrated in searc 


better opportunities for advancement than he could 
find at home. He reached St. Kitts, where he had 
a kinsman, WiUlam Hamilton, an old friend of the 
Fawcetta. William was a man of local eminence, a 
physician, a planter, and a member of the Council. 
James Hamilton was a well-educated and well-bom 
Scottish gentleman. When the two met he was 
about twenty-one and Rachel Levine was about 
twenty. The two met often in society, for Rachel's 
friends stood by her and she moved in the best 
circles. Mrs. Fawcett died and a beautiful, attrac- 
tive, accomplished young woman was left alone. 
The two wanted to marry and could not. Efforts 
to free Rachel were unavailing. Finally the two 
decided to unite outside of the law. The circum- 
stances of the case received much indulgent consid- 
eration, but the investigations made by Mrs. Ather- 
ton on the spot show that the couple experienced 
social censure. This explains the inconvenient ar- 
rangement made for their married life. Rachel had 
through inheritance from her father a place in Nevis, 
to which they moved, although Hamilton's business 
was in St. Kitts and he had to cross the two-mile 
strait between the two islands almost daily. But 
the kinsfolk and old friends of the Fawcetts and 
Hamiltons stood by the young couple, their home 
was hospitable and attractive, they drew about 
them a circle of friends, and obtained a recognized 
position in Nevis society. 


nly with I 
egard to I 

The circumatances should be viewed not onfy 
regard to local conditions but also with regard 
the general conditions then existing as to marriage 
law in the British Empire. The old canon law^ 
which admitted of the annulment of marriage entered 
into by an inexperienced girl imder duress, had been 
overthrown, and secular jurisprudence had not yet 
extended its cognizance to such situations. From 
the traditional information collected by Mrs. Ather- 
ton it appears that Rachel had been much averse to 
the marriage with Levine and gave way only undCT 
pressure. The only way in which she could have 
obtained divorce was by a special act of Parliament, 
always a matter of great expense and diflieulty, and 
quite unattainable in St. Kitts. It is plain that the 
behavior of James Hamilton and his consort stood 
quite apart in moral quality from that which com- 
monly attends an irregular union. Rachel always 
had the position of an honored wife, and received 
social recognition as such. In later years the Ham- 
iltons of Scotland were glad to claim relationah^, 
but there is no evidence of their interest xmtU Alex- 
ander Hamilton had become famous. 

But, while his birth and rearing had none of the 
disadvantages which the term illegitimate might 
suggest, he did experience some of the inconve- 
niences of poverty, not, however, to a greater extent 
than was probably a help in fortifying his character. 
James Hamilton went into business in St. Kitts^ 


had trouble with his partners, withdrew from the 
■m, and set up for himself. His wife sold her St. 
ii\s estate to provide him with capital, which was 
ink in unsuccessful enterprises, and the family was 
ipoverished. Peter Lytton, husband of one 
achel's elder sisters, gave James Hamilton the 
)sition of manager of a cattle estate on St. Croix, 
id he moved there with his family. The Hamil- 
iDS were kindly received by the Lyttons and also by 
le Mitchells, the family into which the other sister 
id married. But James Hamilton made a failure 
his management, fell out with his brother-in-law, 
id in the third year after the family settlement in 
;, CroLx he went to St. Vincent in search of employ- 
ent. He kept in correspondence with his wife, 
It was never able to re-ratablish his hoxisehold, and 
B family became dependent upon his wife's rela- 
sres. The Lj-ttons took Mrs. Hamilton and her 
dldren into their own home, allotting to her use 
1 upstairs wing of their great mansion. Two years 
by, and James Hamilton had not succeeded 
doing any better in business than to earn a small 
then came a final severance through the 
.th of Mrs. Hamilton, February 16, 176S. She 
J then only thirty-two years old. James HamJl- 
lived for many years after, remaining on St. 
icent, where he died on June 3, 1799. Notwith- 
ading his separation from his family, his famous 
regarded him with affection. A letter has been 


preserved from Alexander Hamilton to his brother, 
written from New York, June 23, 1785, in which he 

But what has become of our dear Father? It is an age 
since I have heard from him or of him, though I have 
written him several letters. Perhaps, alas, he is no more, 
and I shall not have the pleasing opportunity of con- 
tributing to render the close of his life more happy than 
the progress of it. My heart bleeds at the recollection of 
his mirfortunes and embarrassments. Sometimes I flat- 
ter myself his brothers have extended their support to 
him; and that he now enjoys tranquillity and ease. At 
other tunes I fear he is suffering in indigence. Should he 
be alive, inform him of my inquiries; beg him to write to 
me, and tell him how ready I shall be to devote myself 
and all I have to his accommodation and happiness. 

Eventually Alexander Hamilton invited his father 
to make his home with him. In a letter of June 12, 
1793, the father wrote: "My bad state of health haa 
prevented my going to sea at this time." More- 
over, the war between England and France made 
travel dangerous. But he added: "We daily expect 
news of a peace, and when that takes place, provided 
it is not too late in the season, I will embark in the 
first vessel that sails for Philadelphia." The letter 
sent "respectful compliments" to Mrs. Hamilton 
and the children, and closed with wishes of health 
and happiness to his "dear Alexander," subscribed 


by "your very affectionate father, James Hamilton." 
Although the elder Hamilton lived for six years after 
the date of that letter, he was never well enough to 
attempt the voyage, and the two never met after 
the son left the West Indies. That they corre- 
sponded regularly is attested by Hamilton's letter 
of 1797 to a Scotch kinsman, in which he said: 

It is now several months since I have heard from my 
father, who continued at the island of St. Vincent's. My 
anxiety at this silence would be greater than it is were it 
not for the probable interruption and precariousness of 
intercourse which is produced by the war. I have strongly 
pressed the old gentleman to come and reside with me, 
which would afford him every enjoyment of which hia 
advanced age is capable; but he has declined it on the 
gromid that the advice of his physiciaos leads him to fear 
that the change of climate would be fatal to him. The 
next best thing for me is, in proportion to my means, to 
endeavor to increase his comforts where he is. 

From the same letter it appears that the Lyttons 
and the Mitchells, who lived in affluence during 
Hamilton's boyhood, were then in straitened cir- 
(nimatancea. Hamilton's expense-book, July 1, 1796, 
records a donation of one hundred dollars to Mrs. 
Mitchell. This book also records money sent to 
Hamilton's father and yoimger brother, to the 
amount of several thousand dollars, during the 
years 1796 to 1799, when Hamilton was himself in 


difficulties over the insufficiency of his income to 
sustain expenditure required by his position. Little 
is known about the career of Hamilton's younger 
brother, except that he remained in the West Indies 
and was obscure in character and fortune. 



rALBXANDBR HAMILTON was eleven years old when 
his mother died; his brother James was five years 
younger. Alexander's education seems to have been 
desultoiy, but he learned to speak French fluently. 
That language has always had a commercial value 
in the Lesser Antilles that brings it into extensive 
use, and a clever child is apt to pick up some knowl- 
edge of it. Hamilton acquired fluency by continual 
pra,ctice with his mother. In other studies he was 
helped by the Reverend Hugh Knox, who was a fre- 
quent visitor at the Lytton mansion, and who lent 
tie boy books and took an active interest in his 
progress. After his mother's death Alexander went 
to hve with his aunt, Mrs. Mitchell. Her husband 
had made a fortune in the slave trade; he owned a 
large general store and also plantations yielding 
sugar, molasses, and rum. He had a town house in 
Chriatianstadt, and, living there, Hamilton was now 
able to go regularly to school with Knox, who hved 
in the same town. He was one of a small class of 
students to whom the Presbyterian pastor gave les- 
sons in Latin and mathematics, but Hamilton could 
not have gone far in his studies, as be was only 


twelve years old when he went to work for Nicholas 
Cruger, proprietor of a lar^ general store. Such 
rudiments of learning as he had received were stead- 
ily improved by assiduous reading. Evidence of 
his youthful ambition is given by a letter from Ham- 
ilton to his chum, Edward Stevens, saying: 

"^,i. . for to confess my weakness, Ned, my ambition 
b prevalent, so that I contemn the grovelling condition 
of a clerk, or the like, to which my fortune condemns me, 
and would willingly risk my life, though not my charac- 
ter, to exalt my station, I am confident, Ned, that my 
youth excludes me from any hopes of immediate prefes^ 
ment, nor do I desire it; but I mean to prepare the way 
for futurity, I'm no philosopher, you see, and may be 
justly said to build castles in the air; mj" folly makes me 
ashamed, and beg you'll conceal it; yet Neddy, we have 
seen such schemes successful, when the projector is con- 

This letter, which is a stock quotation in Hamilton 
biographies, is usually presented as evidence of pre- 
cocious ambition, but this is not really a remarkable 
circumstance. Nothing is more common than for 
youth to have such dreams. Alexander Hamilton 
hit the mark, but myriads have had like a i m s who 
missed the mark and settled down to obscure for- 
tunes. The letter is a remarkable one to have been 
written by a boy not jetitktfierii but it is remark- 
able not so much for its declaration of purpose as 
for its revelation of the writer's character. Its 



luthful pomposity attests his familiarity with the 
literary models of the age. The style is a clever 
boy's imitation of the rolling periods of the eigh- 
teenth-century historians and essayists. Hamilton 
turned out to be one of the small class of men of 
whom it has been justly said that they appear OB 
levers to uplift the earth and roll it into another 
course, but they do not attain to such rare functions 
by the high range of their ambition but by the large 
development of their powers. "The grovelling con- 
dition of a clerk" which he contemned was probably 
of great value as a discipline; for nothing braces the 
mind so much as training in abihty to apply its 
powers to disagreeable tasks. Certain it is that 
Hamilton put his mind to his work as a clerk with 
energy and success, and it was by doing well what 
was then in his sphere of opportimity that larger 
prospects were opened. His ability was such that 
his employer trusted him with important affairs, and 

1770 he was left in charge of the business while 
Cniger was on a trip to America. The diversi- 
led experience which Hamilton obtained in business 
management, and the habits of accuracy and cir- 
cmnspection which trading pursuits tend to develop, 
were good training for the career which made hi m 

Hamilton's desire for a college education was well 
known to friends and relatives. They had the 
means to gratify that desire, and withheld it rather 



from inattention or from inertia than from positive 
imwillingness. A chance event produced a concen- 
tration of influence that was decisive. In August, 
1772, a terrible hurricane swept St. Croix, causing 
great wreckage and ruin. Hamilton wrote an ao- 
coimt of it which was published in a St. Kitts news- 
paper, there being no English newspaper in St. 
Croix. It attracted much attention and caused a 
strong sentiment that so clever a youth ought to 
have the best advantages. Arrangements were then 
made by his aimts for sending him to America for 
a college education. There have been many in- 
stances of such benefactions to promising youths in 
West Indian annals, but the case of Alexander Hamr 
ilton is the most illustrious. He sailed on a vessel 
boimd to Boston, which was reached in October, 
1772, and he at once took passage for New York. 
He never returned to the West Indies, but spent the 
rest of his life in the United States. 

It has been generally assumed in biographies that 
Hamilton's interest in the American struggle was 
excited by the influences of his collegiate career, but 
it is probable that he brought that interest with 
him, for the same issues were quite as absorbing to 
thought in the West Indies as on the American con- 
tinent. Indeed, the constitutional temper which 
was manifested in those times has been better pre- 
served in the West Indies than in continental Amer- 
ica. As the English in Ireland have preserved the 



Shakesperian pranimciation that has been lost in 
England itself through phonetic change; as Nova 
Scotia has preserved seventeenth-eentury customs 
that have died out in Scotland itself; as one may 
find in the West Indies features of the seventeenth- 
century organization of local government that have 
disappeared in the mother country; so too one may 
note relics of political thought, characteristic of all 
the American colonies in Hamilton's boyhood, still 
preserved in the West Indies, although now extinct 
in the United States through the political transfor- 
mations it has experienced. St. Kitts and Nevis 
have lost the representative assemblies they possessed 
in Hamilton's day, and the local legislature is now 
nominated by the Crown. But Barbados still man- 
ages its own affairs tinder a charter of the same type 
as was originally granted to Virginia and Massachu- 
setts, and while these have long since adopted other 
constitutional arrangements, the Barbados charter 
is still in operation and the colonial assembly occu- 
pies the same position and displays the same consti- 
tutional spirit as was evinced by the Virginia House 
of Burgesses and by the Massachusetts Genera! 
Court in the colonial period. An instance of this 
spirit, displayed in 1816, may be exhibited as a spec- 
imen of pohtical doctrine which was clamorous 
throughout the West Indi^ durmg Hamilton's boy- 
hood. A biH had been introduced in the British 
House of Commons pro\iding for a local official, 


with fees fixed by imperial authority. This proposal 
was denounced by the Barbados Assembly in terms 
that exactly reproduce what was common doctrine 
in all the American colonies when Hamilton was a 
child. The speaker of the Barbados Assembly de- 

There is a right which eveiy British subject possesses 
destroyed by no lapse of time or circumstance, nam^, 
that as the burdens of the people are borne by the great 
mass of the community, they cannot be impxtsed without 
the consent of those who represent the interests and sym- 
pathize with the wants of the bulk of the people. It mat- 
ters not on what soil an Englishman may have fixed his 
hut, or in what imcongenial climate he may earn a pre- 
carious subsistence; the pittance of his industry is safe, 
except for the aids for the general benefit voted by the 
power of the representative system. 

American legislative bodies have been reformed 
out of all likeness to theii- original pattern, and the 
representative assembly has declined to a singularly 
humble and subordinate position in the constitu- 
tional scheme, so it is now rather in Barbados than 
anywhere in the United States that such a constitu- 
tional atmosphere is preserved as that in which 
Alexander Hamilton grew up. The Stamp Act, 
which was the beginning of the series of measures 
that provoked the American Revolution, was passed 
in 1765, when Hamilton was eight years old. One 
may be sure that he often heard it discussed, for 



Hpiesentment was as keen and protests were as em- 
phatic in the West Indies as on the mainland. In 
St. Kitts the people burned all the stamped papers 
Bent to the island and made the official distributors 
resign. These measures were carried out in a sys- 
tematic way, with a show of orderly procedure. 
Eiose taking part in them moved over to Nevis in a 
dy to assist the settlers there to do likewise. In 
th islands the Stamp Act was defeated by solid 
resistance. The issues that culminated in the 
American Revolution were thus famihar knowledge 
I the islands and gave as strong a tincture to the 
5 and prepossessions of the rising generation as 
the American continent. When during this 
t>ublous period Alexander Hamilton arrived in 
Efew York to begin his college education, he was 
'already an ardent American patriot. 

He brought with him letters of introduction which 
obtained for him access to the best society, into 
which he was received with the easy hospitality of 
the times. The bright, clever, attractive West In- 
dian lad soon made friends of lifelong value. The 
support of the Livingston and Schuyler families was 
the basis of the power which Hamilton acquired in 
New York politics and acquaintanceship with mem- 
bers of these families began while he was attending 
Francis Barber's grammar school at Ehzabethtown, 
New Jersey. This school had no provision for 
lodgers and students boarded around as they them- 


selves arranged. It was a common thing for those 
well introduced to be invited into the homes of the 
neighboring gentry. In this way Hamilton lived 
for some time with the family of Elias Boudinot, 
already a prominent man in New Jersey politics. 
Another of the friends made by Hamilton in this 
period was William Livingston, at whose houses 
Liberty Hall, he stayed frequently, meeting there 
men who became eminent. Among them was John 
Jay, who married one of Livingston's daughters. 
Livingston himself became governor of New Jersey 
during the Revolution. 

In biographies of Hamilton written by his own 
descendants it is asserted that he went to Barb^s 
school to prepare for Princeton, that in little over a 
year he was ready and would have entered there 
except for the fact that President Witherspocm re- 
fused him permission to go through in shorter time 
than was allowed by the curriculum. There is no 
record at Princeton of the application Hamilton is 
said to have made, but so many circumstances ha^ 
monize with the family tradition that it may be 
regarded as well authenticated. It is quite eha^ 
acteristic of Hamilton's nature and of his circum- 
stances that he should have desired to get his coU^ 
degree as soon as possible. It cannot be doubted 
that it was his original intention to go to Princeton. 
The Reverend Hugh Knox, his first instructor, was 
a Princeton man; so was Barber, imder whose tuition 


Hamilton placed himself; so too wa^ Boudinot, 
with whom he Uved. That, after all, he should have 
turned aside to King's College^ New York, was cer- 
tainly an afterthought, and the only probable ex- 
planation of it is that he was refused the privilege 
he desired of passing from class to class as he was 
able to quahfy. 

King's College, the germ of Columbia University, 
did not then rank with Princeton in reputation or in 
equipment. The maintenance of the regular curric- 
ulum was the work of only one man, the Reverend 
Doctor Myles Cooper, who gave the courses in Latin, 
Greek, English, mathematics, and philosophy. Ham- 
ilton took them all. In company with his friend, 
Edward Stevens, who was studying medicine, Ham- 
ilton also attended the lectiu-es of Doctor Samuel 
Clossey, who had the chair in anatomy. The only 
other known member of the faculty was Doctor 
Peter Middleton, who lectured on chemistry. Ham- 
ilton entered as a private student, attached to no 
particular class but allowed to attend any. He ap- 
plied himself to his studies with great diligence, 
employing a tutor and scheduling his days .so that 
no time should be wasted. But, after all, he never 
finished his college course and was not graduated, 
as the outbreak of the Revolutionary War caused 
the college to be deserted for the camp. Hamilton, 
like many other young men at that time, waa pre- 
maturely withdrawn from study and thrown into 


war and politics by the pressure of events. Tlie 
prominent dates show how brief were his opportuni- 
ties for ayatematic education. He arrived in New 
York October, 1772; in the autumn of 1773 he al- 
tered King's College; in 1774 the Continental Con- 
gress held its first session, and in that same year 
Hamilton began his career as a public speaker asd 
a pamphleteer. But a student animated by definite 
piu^ose and pursuing it with steady, concentrated 
effort can do a great deal in two years, and there is 
ample evidence that Hamilton acquired sound schol- 
arship, and with it the power of applying his mind 
with energy and success to any task. He kept on 
with his studies after he left college to join the army. 
A pay-book kept by Hamilton in 1776, as commander 
of a New York company of artillery, is interspersed 
with notes and reflections upon political philosophy 
and public finance, and it contains a list of books 
which is given below just as he wrote it: 

Rousseau's Emilius. 

Smith's History of New York. 


View of the Universe. 

Lex Mercatoria, 

Millot's History of France. 

Memoirs of the House of Brandenburgh. 

Review of the characters of the principal Nations of | 

Review of EmtJpe. 
History of Prussia. 


History of France. 

Lassd^s Voyage through Italy. 

Robinson's Charles V. 

Present State of Europe. 

Grecian History. 

Baretti's Travels. 

Bacon's Essays. 

Philosophical Transactions. 

Hobbes' Dialogues. 

Plutarch's Morals. 

Cicero's Morals. 

Orations — ^Demosthenes. 

Cudworth's Intellectual System. 

Entick's History of the late War. 

European Settlements in America. 

Halt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce. 

Winn's History of America. 

Montaigne's Essays. 

Hamilton's military career interrupted but did 
not suspend his studies. He resumed them when- 
ever he had any spare time, and in this way he 
turned to good account the long spells of leisure 
which camp life often allows. It will be seen later 
that during miUtary service he found time to develop 
the ideas which eventually he applied to the organ- 
ization of the government and to the management 
of public finance. 


In its traditions King's College was stanchly loyal- 
ist; the faculty deplored the movements of colonial 
sentiment; and conditions became so imcongenial to 
Doctor Clossey that in 1774 he resigned and went 
back to England. President Cooper added the 
weight of his authority to some solenm warnings 
issued by conservative leaders, and soon had his 
students arrayed against him. At a mass meeting 
held on July 6, 1774, in what is now known as CSty 
Hall Park, to stir up New York opinion in favor of 
joint action with the other colonies against British 
dealings with Massachusetts, Hamilton, then on^r 
seventeen years old, was one of the speakers. Doubt- 
less the opportunity was conferred in recognition of 
the presence of a body of collegians in the crowdj 
and as a means of enlisting their support, but he 
spoke with a power that made a distinct impression. 
At this period he began to write for Holt^s Journal, 
and his criticisms of British policy in its columns 
attracted the notice of leading men. There is a 
reference to them in John Jay^s correspondence. 

The chief source of information on the details of 
Hamilton's behavior at this time is Robert Troiq), 
bom the same year as Hamilton, his classmate in 



college and his comrade in arms. He ought, there- 
fore, to be a good witness, but he did not commit his 
recollections to writing until after Hamilton's death, 
and when his statements are collated with facts of 
record it becomes evident that they are not always 
accurate. Troup supplied his recollections to sev- 
eral inquirers. The earliest extant statement from 
hjuri is preserved in the collection of Hamilton papers 
in the Library of Congress. It bears date March 22, 
1810, and is addressed to the Reverend Doctor John 
Mason, who attended Hamilton on his death-bed. 
In it Troup says; 

The General, in his sentiments on government, was 
originally a monarchist. He was versed in the history of 
England, and well acquainted with the principles of the 
English constitution, which he admired. Under this bias 
towards the British monarchy, he took a jowTiey to Bos- 
ton, soon after the destruction of the East India tea by 
people in disguise and called the Mohawk Indians, when 
the public mind was in a state of violent fermentation. 
Whilst at Boston his noble and generous heart, agitated 
by what he saw and heard, hsted him on the side of Amer- 
ica. Prom Boston he returned to New York a warm 
Republican, and quite an enthusiart for resisting the 
claims of the British Parliament; and his enthusiasm im- 
pelled him first to advocate the cause of America with 
his pen and afterwards to vindicate it with hia sword. 

This account of a Boston trip has been adopted 
and enlarged upon by subsequent biographera, but, 


all things considered, it is probable that no such 
trip took place, and that — writing after the lapse of 
thirty-six years — Troup has confused with subse- 
quent events the mention he doubtless heard Hamil- 
ton make of visiting Boston when he first landed in 
America. The Boston tea riots took place Decem- 
ber 16, 1773, at a period when Hamilton was in his 
first term at King's College, applying himself to his 
studies under a schedule strictly controlling his time. 
It is quite unlikely that he would break away to 
make the then long and tedious trip from New York 
to Boston unless there was some strong occasion for 
it, and no such occasion is known. Troup's account 
of Hamilton's motives is demonstrably false, al- 
though his errors are such as naturally occur if recol- 
lections are not carefully checked off by exact rec- 
ords. Internal evidence shows that there was no 
such change in Hamilton's views at this time as the 
accoimt assumes. He was originally a monarchist, 
but so was every one else. Up to July 4, 1776, the 
general attitude was that of loyalty to the crown, 
combined with denial of the legislative authority 
of the English Parliament over the colonies. "The 
most valid reasons can be assigned for our allegiance 
to the King of Great Britain," wrote Hamilton in 
his pamphlet The Fanner Refuted, "but not one of 
the least force, or plausibility, for our subjection to 
parliamentary decrees." In the same pamphlet he 
expressed an ardent wish that the difference be- 

erencra be- 


(nreen "the parent state and the colonies" may be 
reconciled, and he declared: "I am a wann advocate: 
for limited monarchy, and an unfeigned well- wisher; 
to the present royal family." Just such views were 
held in the British West Indies in Hamilton's child- 
hood. The Reverend Hugh Knox, Hamilton's pas- 
tor and teacher at St. Croix, was in full sympathy 
with them, as is attested by his letters to Hamilton. 
In 1777 Mr. Knox prepared and sent to the 
Continental Congress for publication, an argument 
in favor of the American cause entitled. An Address 
to America by a Friend in a Foreign Government. 

A statement made by Hamilton himself is cited 
as evidence that he experienced a change of heart 
through a trip to Boston. In the "Advertisement" 
prefaced to The Farmer Refuted he remarked that it 
is a fair query, How can he be sure that his views are 
not the result of prejudice? and he answers: "Be- 
cause be remembera the time, when he had strong 
prejudices on the side he now opposes. His change 
of sentiment (he firmly beUeves) proceeded from the 
superior foro€ of the arguments in favor of the 
American claims." The style of this utterance is 
merely that of the exordium, an introduction meant 
to prepare the reader's mind for the statement and 
argument that follow. Hamilton was simply con- 
forming to a rhetorical pattern then tau^t in the 
schools. The language used does not point to 
ideas recently caught up, but rather to those of 


gradual development. It was such as one would 
use who had inherited strong loyalist prejudices; 
and had had to surrender them imder the instruc- 
tions of experience^ and this might well have been 
Hamilton's West Indian experience. People do not 
speak of "remembering a time" when referring to a 
recent event, such as that Boston trip would have 
been had it taken place. 

The internal evidence supplied by Hamilton's 
writings demonstrates that he did not write in any 
spirit of affection for New England. At that time 
New England was not in high repute with its neigh- 
bors. Hamilton took care to distinguish between 
New England behavior and the nature of the consti- 
tutional issues. He does not express approval of 
the Boston tea riots, but he complains that, '' instead 
of trjdng to discover the perpetrators, and conmienc- 
ing a legal prosecution against them, the Parliament 
of Great Britain interfered in an imprecedented 
manner, and inflicted a punishment upon a whole 
province." He argues that it is not to be supposed 
that the colonies were acting merely out of sympathy 
with Massachusetts, for "had the rest of America 
passively looked on, while a sister colony was sub- 
jugated, the same fate would gradually have over- 
taken all." It was the habit of Tory pamphlet- 
eers to cite New England traits and happenings to 
the discredit of that section, and it is noticeable 
that Hamilton does not attempt to refute such 


charges but simply avoids them as being beside the 
point. His argmnent is that all the colonies have a 
common interest in defending charter rights against 
aggression. "Hence, while our ears are stmmed 
with the dismal soimd of New England's republican- 
ism, bigotry, and intolerance, it behooves us to be 
on our guard." 

To view Hamilton's •literary activities in their 
proper setting, it should not be supposed that pro- 
ducing a political pamphlet was then any extraor- 
dinary performance. In the eighteenth century it 
rained pamphlets whenever there was a poUticaJ 
storm. The newspaper press had begun to be a 
medium for the expression of public opinion; it was 
not yet an organ of pubUc opinion. The traditional 
view was that it was a gross indecency for news- 
papers to indulge in political comment, but the Rev- 
olutionary movement suppressed such scruples, and 
communications on public affairs from Cato, Camil- 
lus, Decius, Senex, Agricola, and such-like classical 
worthies frequently appeared in the newspapers. 
That would do for short pieces, but when an argu- 
ment was drawn out to any length the pamphlet was 
the ordinary recourse. It was the fashion of the 
times either to figure as one of the great men of an- 
tiquity or else to speak as a rural sage. The cele- 
brated Farmer* s Letters of John Dickinson in 1768 
were so called because they purported to come from 
"a farmer" who had "received a liberal education" 



and was accustomed to spending much of his time 
in a library which he thought "the most valuable 
part of his small estate." Hence he had acquired 
a greater knowledge of history, law, and political 
institutions than is usually attained by men of his 
class; and therefore he felt moved to offer his 
thoughts upon the situation. So, too, when the 
Reverend Doctor Seabury produced his pamphlet, 
Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the CorUiTientd 
Congress, he signed it "A Westchester Farmer." In 
reply Hamilton produced a pamphlet in December, 
1774, entitled A Full Vindication of the Measures of 
Congress from the Calumnies of Their Enemies. Doc- 
tor Seabury rejoined in a pamphlet entitled Congress 
Canvassed by a Westchester Farmer. Hamilton re- 
plied in a pamphlet entitled The Farmer Refuted ; or, 
a More Comprehensive and Impartial View of the 
Disputes Between Great Britain and the Colonies, /»• 
tended as a Further Vindication of the Congress. 

In reading these pamphlets, the one produced 
before Hamilton was eighteen, the other a little 
after, one is not at all smprised that Doctor Coop» 
found it hard to believe that such a youth could hava 
produced such "well-reasoned and cogent political 
discussions." That phrase exactly characterized 
them. Not only do they make a remarkable exhibi- 
tion of precocious ability, but, on making no allow- 
ance for the youth of the author, they stand in the 
first rank of the political pamphlets of the Revolxh 


tionary period. The Full Vindication is about 14,- 
000 words in length. There is more strut in the 
style than was characteristic of Hamilton later on, 
but that is the only mark of juvenility in the pro- 
duction. The deep analysis and the logical coher- 
ence that are the specific traits of Hamilton's state 
papers are well marked in these products of his 
youth. What could go straighter to the mark than 
this, in rejoinder to comment on so much fuss about 
a trifling impost ? " They endeavor to persuade us," 
he said, "... that our contest with Britain is 
founded entirely upon the petty duty of three pence 
per poimd on East India tea; whereas the whole 
world knows it is built upon this interesting question, 
whether the inhabitants of Great Britain have a 
right to dispose of the lives and properties of the 
inhabitants of America, or not." Reviewing the 
failure of remonstrance and petition, he pointed out 
that all that was left was a choice between non- 
importation and armed resistance. At that time 
Congress recommended non-importation. The aim 
of Hamilton's argument was to justify the measures 
of Congress, and he set systematically to work to 
show first that that policy was reconcilable with the 
strictest maxims of justice. Next he proceeded to 
examine whether it had also the sanction of sound 
policy. "To render it agreeable to good policy, 
three things are requisite. First, that the necessity 
of the times requires it; secondly, that it be not the 


probable source of greater evils than those it pretends 
to remedy; and, lastly, that it have a probability of 
success." He drew out the argument imder each of 
these three heads with an amount of information 
and with a soberness of estimate that are certainly 
marvellous in one of his years. The bombast so 
natural to youth on fire with patriotic indignation is 
quite absent. He does not boast of American great- 
ness, but he points out that, since Great Britain 
could not send out a large army, "oiu* superiority in 
niunber would overbalance our inferiority in dis- 
cipline. It would be a hard, if not impracticable 
task, to subjugate us by force." On comparing the 
anticipations of military and economic conditions 
made in this pamphlet with those which actually 
ensued, it must be credited with remarkable pre- 

The succeeding pamphlet. The Farmer Refuted, 
was a still more elaborate argument. It contained 
'over 35,000 words, and as originally published ran to 
78 pages. It is marred by some of the smart per- 
sonal allusions that inferior disputants are apt to im- 
port into controversy. Comparing his opponent to 
one of the characters in Pope's Dunciad,he remarked: 
"'Pert dullness' seems to be the chief characteristic 
of yoiu* genius as well as his." Later on he makes 
a much neater stroke, when, after citing some harsh 
terms applied to himself by his opponent, he ob- 
served: ''With respect to abuse, I make not the least 


doubt but every reader will allow you to surpass me 
in that." However cleverly such gibes may be 
made, they are the cheapest stuff that can be em- 
ployed in controversy; but at this period such stuff 
was used profusely by those who did not have Ham- 
ilton's excuse of youth. In the main, the pamphlet 
is a soUd and dignified argument resting upon his- 
torical and economic data of great fulness and exact 
pertinence. The argument is devoted to stating, de- 
veloping, and proving the thesis that to disclaim the 
authority of the British Parliament does not imply 
a breach of allegiance to the Crown. This was the 
doctrine with which colonial resistance to imperial 
authority began. It was a doctrine which admitted 
of fighting the King's troops while professing loyalty 
,. le Z,, and L. of Lm^, Ide it LL^ 
to draw out some very fine distinctions. Hamilton's 
pamphlet is as good a sample of legal ingenuity in 
this Kne as is to be foimd in any tract of the times. 
In addition to legal acuteness, the pamphlet is 
marked by observations upon the economic aspects 
of the struggle, displaying an ability to think pre- 
cisely and correctly upon such matters which doubt- 
less owed something to Hamilton's own commercial 
experience. In contending that America had suffi- 
cient resources to provide for her own needs, he made 
a declaration that was prophetic of his own states- 
manship. "In such a country as this," he said, 
" there can be no great difficulty in finding business 


for all its inhabitants. Those obstacles which, to 
the eye of timidity or disaffection seem like Alps, 
would; to the hand of resolution and perseverancei 
become mere hillocks.^^ 

Not only his writings but also his conduct at this 
period shows that this youth of eighteen was as 
remarkable for the sobriety as for the power of his 
intelUgence. It is characteristic of times of excite- 
ment that disorderly outbreaks of popular sentiment 
receive special indulgence. Riots become patriotic 
demonstrations; outrages upon persons and prop- 
erty become evidences of zealous devotion to the 
cause. At the same time that Hamilton was active 
in measures for organized resistance to British 
policy he was quite as active in opposing the rowdy- 
ism that attached itself to the movement. Accord- 
ing to Troup, Hamilton intervened to save Doctor 
Cooper from attack by a mob. The stoiy goes that 
as the mob approached Cooper's residence Hamilton 
and Troup ascended the steps, and Hamilton made 
a speech to the crowd "on the excessive impropriety 
of their conduct and the disgrace they were bringing 
on the cause of liberty, of which they professed to 
be the champions.'^ Doctor Cooper, seeing Hamil- 
ton from an upper window, and not being able to 
hear what he was saying, mistook his purpose, and 
shouted to the mob: "Don't listen to him, gentle- 
men; he is crazy." The delay occasioned by Ham- 


ilton's resolute stand enabled Doctor Cooper to 
make his escape. 

That on some occasion Hamilton did speak and 
act as Troup described need not be questioned. It 
was quite in keeping with his character. But that 
it had the decisive connection with Doctor Cooper^s 
escape which appears in the traditional narrative is 
more than doubtful. J. C. Hamilton makes the in- 
cident a feature of the commotion which filled the 
city as a result of the shots fired by the man-of-war 
Asia, wounding several persons on the Battery. 
But this affair occurred on August 23, 1775. Ac- 
cording to data in the New York colonial archives, 
the mob attack which drove out Doctor Cooper took 
place on the night of May 10, 1775, but he got word 
of the approach of the mob from a former pupil and 
took refuge in the house of a Mr. Stuyvesant, re- 
maining there the next day until evening, when he 
took refuge with Captain James Montague, com- 
manding the British man-of-war Kingfisher , which 
vessel conveyed Doctor Cooper to England.^ This 
account is corroborated by Doctor Cooper^s verses, 
written on the anniversaiy of his escape, pubUshed 
in the Gentleman's Magazine for July, 1776. In it 
he relates how he was roused from sleep by a 
"heaven-directed youth" and warned that a mob 

^ DocumerUa Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New 
York, vol. Vm, p. 297. 


was approaching. He says that they wrecked his 
home; but 

^^ Meanwhile, along the sounding shore. 
Where Hudson's waves incessant roar, 

I take my weary way; 
And skirt the windings of the tide. 
My faithful pupil by my side. 
Nor wish the approach of day." 

There is nothing to indicate that the faithful 
pupil who aided Doctor Cooper's escape was Ham- 
ilton, although it might have been. But there 
is ample evidence that he condemned and opposed 
the mob spirit. One of its targets was the printer, 
James Rivington, from whose press Tory pamphlets 
had been issued. So, too, had Whig pamphlets, 
among them Hamilton's own productions; but Eiv- 
ington was known to side with the Tories, and his 
press was regarded as a centre of Tory influence. 
But the blow did not fall upon him from his own 
townsmen. On November 23, 1775, a company of 
horsemen from Connecticut, commanded by Israel 
Sears, rode into town declaring that they had come 
to destroy Rivington's press. It is related that 
Hamilton again interposed, and was so indignant at 
this raid from another province that he even ap- 
pealed to the people to resist the Connecticut ma- 
rauders by force. The mob, however, followed the 
lead of the raiders, and Rivington's establishment 


was wrecked and pillaged. A few days later Hamil- 
ton wrote a long letter to John Jay, then a member 
of the Continental Congress, which gives signal evi- 
dence of his calm statesmanship. After referring to 
the raid on Rivington^s press, he observed: 

In times of such commotion as the present, while the 
passions of men are worked up to an unconunon pitch 
there is great danger of fatal extremes. The same state 
of the passions which fits the multitude, who have not a 
suflScient stock of reason and knowledge to guide them, 
for opposition to tyranny and oppression, very naturally 
leads them to a contempt and disregard of all authority. 
The due mediiun is hardly to be found among the more 
intelligent; it is almost impossible among the unthinking 
populace. When the minds of these are loosened from 
their attachment to ancient establishments and courses, 
they seem to grow giddy and are apt more or less to run 
into anarchy. These principles, too true in themselves, 
and confirmed to me both by reading and my own experi- 
ence, deserve extremely the attention of those who have 
the direction of public affairs. In such tempestuous 
times, it requires the greatest skill in the political pilots 
to keep men steady and within proper boimds. ... 

This laying down of general principles was the 
preface to a practical recommendation, which was 
that troops should be stationed in New York, both 
to repress Tories and to preserve order. He sug- 
gested that they might be '' raised in Philadelphia, 
the Jerseys, or any province except New England." 
Jay communicated Hamilton's views to Nathaniel 


WoodhuD, president of the Provincial CSoogreaB d 
New York, with some comments of his own con- 
demning the New England exploit. 

The notion that the forceful aiguments produced 
by Hamilton at this period were improv&atiQiis in- 
spired by the zeal of a new convert may be dismissed 
as unfoimded. Constitutional views so mature and 
80 well documented take time for their growth. The 
issues involved had been beforo Hamilton's mind 
from the time he was eight years old, and he had 
long been gathering information upon them. But, 
even so, one cannot read the pamphlets and letters 
without astonishment that a youth of eighteen, 
actively engaged in a popular movement and ex- 
posed to all of its excitements, should be able to 
keep such a cool head and to display such a comr 
bination of energy and sagacity. One must admit 
that here is clear evidence of genius, an outpouring 
of power and capacity beyond anything that might 
be expected from the circumstances of the case or 
be accounted for on any theory of heredity. 



It will be a view of Hamilton's position at this period 
that wiU best accord with known facts, if we regard 
the distinction now usually imputed to his youthful 
activities as being reflected upon them by his sub- 
sequent fame. He had certamly distinguished him- 
self by his pamphlets, in the opinion of competent 
judges, but that did not constitute popular distinc- 
tion. The force of argument and the dignity of 
style that mark those productions are better calcu- 
lated to impress those who think than those who 
fed, and popularity belongs to those who can appeal 
most effectively to the feeling of the hour. The 
bulk of the literary output of the times consisted of 
sarcastic poems, personal quips, scurrilous tirades^ 
bi;Lrlesques, and facetiae. Probably few people in 
turbulent New York at that time heard of Hamil- 
ton's pamphlets. They were known and admired in 
a restricted circle, but that circle included men of 
leadership and influence, whose good opinion was 
valuable. Besides the two pamphlets he wrote in 
reply to Doctor Seabury, he also produced a pam- 
phlet in 1775, entitled Remarks on the Quebec BiU, 
which is shorter than its predecessora and is inferior 



to them in quality. It is plainly an appeal to 
Protestant bigotry. It discusses the policy of the 
British Government in Canada in support of a con- 
tention that "arbitrary power, and its great engine, 
the Popish religion, are, to all intents and prnpoees, 
established in that province." 

According to Troup's reminiscences, Hamilton, 
Troup, and other students formed a militaiy com- 
pany in 1775, known as "Hearts of Oak." It was 
drilled and instructed by Major Fleming, who had 
been an adjutant in the British Army. It has been 
assumed on the strength of Troup's recollections 
that the Hearts of Oak participated in the removal 
of the cannon from the Battery in the course of 
which the British man-of-war Asia fired upon the 
crowd. Troup relates that dining this bombard- 
ment "Hamilton, who was aiding in the removal of 
the cannon, exhibited the greatest imconcem, al- 
though one of his companions was killed by his 
side." It is entirely probable that the coll^ans 
were in the crowd at the Battery, and that they 
lent a hand to the efforts of the troops to remove 
the cannon; but contemporaneous chronicles make 
no mention of the participation of the Hearts of 
Oak in that affair. There were twenty-one can- 
non posted on the Battery, and the order for their 
removal was issued by the Provincial Congress of 
New York, that they might be transferred to forts 
then ordered to be constructed in the Highlands of 


the Hudson. Captain John Lamb, in command of 
a company of artillery, assisted by a detachment of 
infantry from Colonel John Lasher^s battalion, per- 
formed this service, in the course of which shots 
were fired from the shore against a barge belonging 
to the Asia, killing one of her crew. The Asia retali- 
ated by a bombardment that woimded three persons 
in the crowd and damaged neighboring property, but 
killed nobody. This took place on August 23, 1775. 
It may be doubted whether the Hearts of Oak were 
then in existence. Their motto, "Freedom or 
Death," inscribed on the hatbands which belonged 
to their imif orm, suggests that they were one of the 
numerous volunteer military companies that sprang 
up after Montgomery used that watchword in the 
battle of Quebec, in which he was killed, December 
31, 1775. A retmn of the militia companies in New 
York City made in August, 1775, does not mention 
the Hearts of Oak, but a retimi in 1776 mentions a 
corps of that name commanded by Captain John 

The definitely established facts indicate that while 
the Continental Congress was taking the first steps 
in armed resistance to British pohcy, Hamilton was 
assiduously pursuing his studies, civil and mihtary. 
Custis^s Reminiscences y written in his old age and 

* Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New Yorkf vol. 
VIII, p. 601 ; Memoirs of the Long Island Historical Society f vol. Ill, 
p. 108. 


showing marks of inacciiracy, relates that at one 
time Hamilton thought of returning to St. Croix. 
CustiS; a stepson of Washington and an inmate of 
his household^ saw and heard a great deal of Hamil- 
ton, and is not likely to be mistaken as to the bare 
fact; although the melodramatic setting he gives it 
is improbable. That such a notion occurred to 
Hamilton harmonizes with other facts in his situar 
tion at this period. He had come to America to 
get a collie education with fimds provided by his 
West Indian relatives for that purpose. After the 
flight of Doctor Cooper and imder the distractions 
of the times King^s College began to break up. It 
may well have occurred to Hamilton whether it was 
not his duty to return to the West Indies with his 
remaining funds. He decided that the circum- 
stances warranted a conversion of his funds to new 
uses, and he applied for the conunand of a company 
of artillery which was included in the list of forces 
authorized by the New York Provincial Convention; 
was examined as to his fitness, and his commission 
was issued March 14, 1776. He employed the last 
of his fimds in recruiting this company. On April 6 
the treasurer of King^s College was notified by a 
Conunittee of Safety that the building was ne^ed 
for military purposes. The college library and other 
apparatus were then deposited in the City Hall, the 
remaining students were dispersed, and the coU^ 
building was turned into an army hospital. 


It is evident that Bbimilton was already regarded 
as a youth of military promise, for Lord Stirling, 
who took command of the Continental forces in 
New York on March 6, 1776, requested EKas Boudi- 
not to engage Hamilton for him as a member of his 
staff. Boudinot replied that "Mr. Hamilton had 
already accepted the command of artillery, and was 
therefore deprived of the pleasure of attending your 
Lordship^s person as brigade major." It was a 
marked distinction for a youth of nineteen, but not 
an unusual one in those times when youths of edu- 
cation and intelligence were much in demand to 
supply staff service to the munerous militia generals. 

Hamilton applied himself with characteristic 
thoughtfulness and diligence to drilling and exercis- 
ing his company. Custis relates that in the sum- 
mer of that year General Greene saw him drilling 
his company in the Fields (now City Hall Park) and 
was so impressed by his abiUty that he made his ac- 
quaintance, invited him to his quarters, and formed 
such an opinion of him that eventually he introduced 
him to Washington, with recommendations that 
bore fruit in Hamilton's appointment to Washing- 
ton's staff. Hamilton's correspondence at this time 
attests his thoroughness in the discharge of his mili- 
tary duties. Several of his letters to the Provincial 
Congress are preserved, dealing with matters per- 
taining to the discipline and equipment of his com- 
pany with inteUigence and good judgment. The 


exact and cautious character of his observations is 
well illustrated by a commimication in August, 1776, 
in which he recommends one of his sergeants for a 
commission, remarking that " he is a very good dis- 
ciplinarian — possesses the advantage of having seen 
a good deal of service in Germany, has a tolerable 
share of common sense, and will not disgrace the 
rank of an officer and gentleman." The sei^geant 
so recommended got his commission and made a 
good officer. 

Hamilton's artillery company was among the 
forces with which Washington tried to oppose the 
British attack upon New York in August, 1776. 
Washington had a total force of 28,500 officers and 
men with which to oppose Howe's army of over 
31,000. The American Army was composed of 
twenty-five regiments, recruited by order of the 
Continental Congress, and therefore the lineal pred- 
ecessors of our present regular army, and in addi- 
tion there were forty-six regiments or battalions 
of State mihtia. The militia officers had not the 
training or experience to look properly after their 
men, and there was so much sickness that on the 
day of the battle of Long Island Washington had 
only about 19,000 effectives, while Howe had over 
24,000. Among Washington's troops imif orms were 
the exception, and most of the soldiers were dressed 
in citizens' clothes. For arms the troops had old 
flintlocks, fowling-pieces, rifles, and some good 


English muskets. Lacking discipline, they of course 
also lacked cohesion. 

In the battle, fought on August 27, the American 
troops were outflanked and defeated, and Lord Stir- 
ling and General Sullivan, on whose divisions the 
brunt of the attack fell, were both captured by the 
British, who took prisoner in all ninety-one Ameri- 
can officers. Washington, who had remained in 
New York, uncertain where the attack would fall, 
hurried forward reinforcements as soon as news 
arrived of the British movements, and this brought 
Hamilton's company into the action. The Ameri- 
can lines were crumpled up so that it was not possi- 
ble to make a stand, but it appears that Hamilton's 
company acted as a rear-guard in the retreat, in the 
course of which he lost a field-piece and his baggage. 
One of Hamilton's chums fared even worse on that 
day. Lieutenant Robert Troup was one of a special 
patrol of five commissioned officers detailed to watch 
Jamaica Pass. Their watch was so poor that the 
whole party was surprised and captured, and thus 
the way was opened for the flanking movement that 
struck the American line imawares and produced a 
rout and a disorderly retreat.^ 

Washington, who possessed a mind that no calam- 
ity could stun and an energy of character that no 
circumstances could paralyze, exerted himself with 

^iSee Memoirs of the Long Island Historioal Society, vol. Ill, 
p. 177. 



considerable succeaa in rearranging his forces cm new 
lines at Brooklyn. But some British men-of-war 
made their way into Flushing Bay and the Ameri- 
can rear was exposed to possibilities of attack that 
made retreat advisable. This was so skilfully man- 
aged that the army was drawn back to New York 
without loss. Washington's situation was still very 
perilous, as his army was beginning to melt by the 
desertion of militia, who began to leave by groups 
and even whole companies. Scott's brigade, to 
which Hamilton's company was attached, was now 
posted on the East River front. Washington re- 
garded the position as defensible if he had troops 
that could be depended upon. Writing to Congress 
on September 2, he said: "Till of late I had no doubt 
in my own mind of defending this place, nor should 
I have yet, if the men would do their duty, but this 
I despair of. It is painful, and extremely grating to 
me, to give such unfavorable accounts, but it would 
be criminal to conceal the truth at so critical a juno- 
ture." His best generals strongly advised evacua- 
tion of the city, and on September 12 the removal 
of the army to lines on Harlem Heights was begun, 
but was not completed by the 15th, when the British 
occupied the city. On that day Scott's brigade was 
still on the East River front, about the foot of what 
is now Fifteenth Street. A force of British, under 
cover of fire from five British frigates, made a lajid- 
ing in Kip's Bay, where some mihtia regiments were 

^ m JV*llfcJI3 t¥&Lb - 



posted. They were seized with panic and ran away 
in a maimer which Washington described as "dis- 
graceful and dastardly." Scott's brigade had to 
make an immediate retreat, or else it might have 
been surrounded and captured. General Putnam, 
to whose division the brigade belonged, was in great 
difficulties, and the escape of this division is attrib- 
uted largely to the efforts of Aaron Burr, who was 
one of Putnam's aides. Burr, who knew the ground 
thoroughly, led it over to the Bloomingdale road, 
and after a circuitous march of about twelve mflee 
the division reached Harlem Heights with httle loss, 
to the joy of the other brigades, who had given it 
up for lost. 

It was on Harlem Heights that Hamilton first met 
Washington, according to J. C. Hamilton, who re- 
lates that, "on the inspection of an earthwork he 
was throwing up, the commauder-in-chief entered 
into conversation with him, invited him to his tent, 
and received an impression of his military talent." 
This account does not tally well with the account 
given by Custis that Hamilton was recommended 
to Washington by General Greene. It is probably 
an embellished version of the fact that Washington 
met and talked with Hamilton in the course of hxs 
arrangements for fortifying hia lines. In the circum- 
stances that was almost inevitable. But it is alto- 
gether unhkely that Washington had any time for 
general conversation when he was working under 


great pressure to rearrange his disheartened and 
demoralized forces. It was at this juncture that 
Washington made one of the strokes characteristic 
of his generalship. The British by this time thought 
the Colonials such easy marks that a force of about 
300 had the temerity to push up to the lines^ sound- 
ing bugle-calls of the sort used at a fox-hunt. Wash- 
ingtoU; who had a quick military eye, saw a chance 
to hearten his troops. Drawing the attention of the 
British by some weak skirmishing on their front, he 
sent out a flanking expedition which came near bag- 
gingthem. As it was, they had to run and, rein- 
forcements being thrown in by both sides, there was 
considerable of a battle, in which the British were 
beaten and had to retreat. This engagement, in 
which not more than 1,800 took part on the Ameri- 
can side, became known as the battle of Harlem 
Heights. It was a smart affair, and Washington 
wrote that it "inspirited our troops prodigiously." 
It is not likely that Hamilton took any part in 
this affair, as the brigade to which he belonged was 
not engaged. His work on Harlem Heights con- 
tinued to be that in which Washington f oimd him 
engaged, the fortification of his part of the line and 
careful preparation against possible attack. But no 
attack took place. Howe, who did his work leisurely 
but with professional competency, in a few weeks 
flanked Washington out of the Harlem Heights posi- 
tion by sending a force through Hell Gate to make 


a landing in Westchester County, threatening Wash- 
ington's conununieations. Washington therefore 
moved to a new position, his right flank resting on 
the Bronx and his left flank on Chatterton's Hill. 
On October 28 the British made an attack, and, when 
it appeared that its chief weight would fall on the left 
flank. Captain Alexander Hamilton's two-gun bat- 
tery was among the reinforcements sent to Chatter- 
ton's Hill. The attacking force, numbering about 
4,000 men, were met by a fire before which they re- 
coiled, but on moving up again they extended more 
to the left of the American position. The militia 
stationed there gave way, compelling a general re- 
treat on the American dde. 

This affair on Chatterton's Hill is known as the 
battle of White Plains. On the American side not 
over 1,600 troops were engaged, and they inflicted 
severer losses than they sustained, but the effect 
was to cause Washington to make another masterly 
retreat. During the night he fell back to the 
heights of North Castle, occupying so strong a posi- 
tion that Howe decided not to attack. According 
to British historians, Howe concluded that Wash- 
ington could not be induced to risk a decisive en- 
gagement, and that the Americans knew the coun- 
try too well to be cut off, so he desisted from pur- 
suit and turned to other operations, which were 
quite successful. On November 16 he attacked 
Fort Washington, on the Hudson, and Washington, 



who watched the fighting from Fort Lee, had the 
mortification of seeing the garrison forced to sur- 
render. This disaster closed the campaign in the 
vicinity of New York, during which the American 
Army lost most of its artillery — 218 pieces of all 
calibre — while 329 officers and 4,100 men were 
taken prisoner by the British. 

Hamilton passed through all these gloomy ejcperi- 
ences, and he and his little battery were in the rem- 
nant of the American Army that still clung to Wash- 
ington's desperate fortunes. An anecdote obtained 
by Washington Irving from "a veteran officer of the 
Revolution" gives a glimpse of Hamilton in this 
retreat. Said this officer: "I noticed a youth, a 
mere stripling, small, slender, almost delicate in 
frame, marching beside a piece of artillery, with a 
cocked hat pulled down over his eyes, apparently lost 
in thought with his hand resting on the camion, and 
every now and then patting it as he mused, as if it 
were a favorite horse, or a pet plaything." 

One obtains another glimpse of Hamilton during 
this retreat through Custis's Memoirs. He relates 
that at the passage of the Raritan, near New Bruns- 
wick, Hamilton attracted the notice of the com- 
mander-in-chief, who while posted on the river 
bank, and contemplating with anxiety the passage 
of the troops, was charmed by the brilliant courage 
and admirable skill displayed by a young ofl&cer of 
artilleiy, who directed a battery against the enemy's 



advanced columns that pressed upon the Americans 
in their retreat by the ford. The general ordered 
Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald, his aide-de-camp, to 
ascertain who this young officer was, and bid him 
repair to headquarters at the first halt of the army. 
According to Custis, who was so situated that he 
might have received the information from Wash- 
ington's own hps, the personal regard of Washington 
for Hamilton dated from that incident. 

From New Brunswick the American troops re- 
treated by the road passing through Princeton. 
J. C. Hamilton quotes "a friend" as saying: "Well 
do I remember the day when Hamilton's company 
marched into Princeton. It was a model of disci- 
pline; at their head a boy, and I wondered at his 
youth; but what was my surprise when struck with 
his slight figure, he was pointed out to me as that 
Hamilton of whom we had already heard so much." 

In the course of this campaign Washington ad- 
hered to his Fabian tactics, avoiding a general en- 
gagement and watchftd of opportunity to make 
sudden counter-strokes. His great axploit was the 
surprise of the Hessians at Trenton, during their 
Christmas festivities, followed up by the battle of 
Princeton. Hamilton took part in these affairs, in 
which his company sustained losses reducing its 
strength to about thirty men. This force was among 
the fragments of the original army which still re- 
mained with Washington when he established his 


winter quarters at Morristown, early in Januaiy, 
1777. During that winter Hamilton became one of 
Washington's secretaries; and on March 1, 1777; he 
was formally appointed an aide-de-camp; with the 
rank of lieutenant-colonel. Hamilton sent notice of 
this event to the New York Convention, advising 
them of the appointment; and asking instructions 
as to what should be done with the remnant of the 
company; suggesting that "the Continent will read- 
ily take it off your hands." The Convention replied 
that "it is determined to permit that company to 
join the Continental Army; for which you will take 
the necessary steps." This event closed Hamilton's 
service in the State mihtia and marked the beginning 
of his distinctly national career. 

In taking up arms in the service of the American 
colonies Hamilton did not sever his relations with 
his West Indian relatives and friends. On February 
14; 1777; he wrote to the Reverend Hugh KnoX; at 
St. Croix, what Knox characterized as a "very cir- 
cumstantial and satisfactory letter." It appears 
from Knox's reply, which has been preserved, that 
in this letter Hamilton mentioned his appointment 
on Washington's staff. Knox wrote that Hamilton's 
account of his services and advancement "has given 
high satisfaction to all friends her^.." The good 
clergyman was himself overjoyed. " Mark this ! " he 
wrote; "you must be the Annalist aad Biographer; 



^ as wdl as the Aide-de-Camp, of General Washington 
and the Historiographer of the Amekican War!*' 
Mr. Knox pressed this point, sa3dng: "This may be 
a new and strange thought to you : but if you survive 
the present trouble, / aver— few men will be as well 
qualified to write the history of the present glorious 
struggle. God only knows how it will terminate. 
But however that may be, it will be a most inter- 
esting story." 

This letter, from the clergyman under whom Ham- 
ilton began his studies, is importent in several ways. 
It testifies to the high opinion of Hamilton's abilities 
among those who had known him from his infancy. 
It shows that the sympathy of the West Indian set 
to which Hamilton belonged was strongly on the 
side that Hamilton had espoused, so that Hamilton's 
action was no severance of old ties. Mr. Knox ex- 
pressed the hope that he would "justify the choice, 
and merit the approbation, of the great and good 
General Washington — a, name which will shine with 
distinguished lustre in the annals of history — a name 
dear to the friends of the Liberties of Mankind I'' 
When it is considered that Hamilton's letter must 
have borne a taJe of disaster, it is evident that the 
clergyman's ardor m the American cause must have 
beefdeep andstrong to express itself in such a way 
at such a time. It is a great pity that Hamilton's 
letter to which this was a reply has never been 


recovered. It would doubtless have siqyplied an 
exact account of Hamilton's activities in America 
up to the b^inning of his personal assodatioii with 
General Washington. 




Hamilton's reports made in closing his connec- 
tion with the State militia mention sickness as hav- 
ing caused delay in submitting them. A letter from 
a Provincial committee, dated April 2, 1777, says 
that they are sorry to hear of his "indisposition." 
The letter from Mr. Knox of April 21, 1777, con- 
gratulates Hamilton upon his "recovery from a long 
and dangerous illness." It also appears that Gen- 
eral Washington was ill about the same time. A 
letter of Gouvemeur Morris, March 26, 1777, refers 
to the "xmiversal joy" it caused "to hear of the 
General's recovery." 

When Hamilton was appointed aide-de-camp he 
had just turned twenty, while Washington had just 
turned forty-five. The physical contrast between 
them was very marked. Washington was six feet 
two inches tall, with unusually large limbs. 
Hamilton was only about five feet seven, just 
the height of Napoleon Bonaparte. His hair — a 
lock of which I have examined — ^was sandy red, 
and authentic accounts leave no doubt that his 
complexion was of the ruddy Scottish type. Wil- 
liam Sullivan, a Massachusetts Federalist lawyer^ 



politician; and historian^ gave this account of Ham- 
ilton's appearance as a guest at a dinner-party in 
December, 1795: "He was under middle size, thin 
in person, but remarkably erect and dignified in 
his deportment. His hair was turned back from 
his forehead, powdered and collected in a club be- 
hind. His complexion was exceedingly fair, and 
varjdng from this only by the almost feminine 
rosiness of his cheeks. His might be considered, 
as to figure and color, an uncommonly handsome 
face. When at rest, it had a rather severe and 
thoughtful expression; but when engaged in con- 
versation, it easily assumed an attractive smile. 
He was dressed in a blue coat with bright buttons; 
the skirts of his coat were unusually long. He wore 
a white waistcoat, black silk small clothes, white silk 
stockings. The gentleman, who received him as a 
guest, introduced him to such of the company aa 
were strangers to him; to each he made a formal 
bow, bending very low, the ceremony of shaking 
hands not being observed." 

This description of Hamilton's looks and bearing 
at the age of thirty-eight will do quite well for him 
at the age of twenty, for his sense of personal dignity 
was as strongly marked then. 

Timothy Pickering, who was Washington's adju- 
tant-general in 1777, said that Washington was then 
imhandy with his pen. "When I first became ac- 
quainted with the General," Pickering related, "his 



writing was defective in grammar, and even in spell- 
ing, owing to the insufficiency of his early education; 
of which, however, he gradually got the better in 
the subsequent years of his life, by the official peru- 
sal of some excellent models, particularly those of 
Hamilton; by writing with care and patient atten- 
tion; and reading numerous, indeed multitudes of, 
letters to and from his friends and correspondents." 
The year in which Pickering first became ac- 
quainted with Washington was the same year in 
which Hamilton was appointed aide-de-camp, so it 
exhibits Washington as he was when Hamilton's 
service began. Washington had difficulty in getting 
a military secretary to his liking, or else found it 
hard to retain an aide-de-camp assigned to that 
function. The duties were heavy and multifarious, 
for, in addition to directing the^y under his im^ 
mediate conunand, Washi^ton was charged with a 
general supervision of military arrangements. What 
government there was was m unprovised thing 
without proper organs, and he was expected to act 
as a sort of secretary of war without means for 
executing that office. A view of the difficulties into 
which he was plunged is afforded by a letter of 
April 23, 1776, from Washington to Congress: "I 
give in to no kind of amusement myself, and con- 
sequentiy those about me can have none, but are 
confined from morning tiU evening, hearing and 
answering the appUcations and letters of one and 


another, which will now, I expect, receive a coneid- 
erable addition, as the business of the northern and 
eastern departments, if I continue here, must, I 
suppose, pass through my hands. If these gentle- 
men had the same relaxation from duty as other 
officers have in their common routine, there would 
not be BO much in it. But to have the mind alwaj-s 
upon the stretch, scarce ever unbent, and no hours 
for recreation, makes a material odds. Knowing 
this, and at the same time how inadequate the pay 
is, I can scarce find inclination to impose the neces- 
sary duties of their office upon them." 

From the account Pickering gives of the battle of 
the Brandywine, September 11, 1777, it appears that 
Robert H. Harrison of Maryland was then serving 
as military secretary, although Hamilton's staff ap- 
pointment took effect the previous March. At this 
time Hamilton's staff duties were not so confining 
but that he could take part in expeditions of a skir- 
mishing character. On September 18 he went with 
a small party of horse to destroy some stocks of 
flour in some mills on the Schuylkill, which the 
British were likely to seize. Hamilton took the 
precaution of securing a flat-bottomed boat in ease 
a sudden retreat should be necessary. It turned 
out to be a wise arrangement, as the British were at 
hand, and as Hamilton and his men rowed across 
the river they were fired upon, "by which means," 
wrote Hamilton, "I lost my horse — one man was 


^Tdlled and another wounded." That Hamilton kept 
his wits about him in this exciting situation is shown 
by the fact that he at once dispatched a message to 
John Hancock, President of Congress, saying: "If 
Congress have not left Philadelphia they ought to 
do it immediately without fail." The same night 
he sent another message to the same effect, calling 
attention to the advance of the British, and remark- 
ing: "This renders the situation of Congress ex- 
tremely precarious, if they are not on their guard." 
The effect of this warning, in which Hamilton acted 
on his own judgment, was to cause Congress to ad- 
journ to Lancaster, about sixty miles west of Phila- 
delphia. Hamilton himself went to Philadelphia 
to bring off all the supplies he could before the Brit- 
ish arrived, and on the 22d he sent another report 
to President Hancock, at Lancaster, saying that 
"every appearance justified the supposition" that 
the enemy was about to cross the river to the Phila- 
delphia side. As it tmned out, the British occupa- 
tion of Philadelphia took place on September 26. 

The indications are that it was not until after this 
affau- that Hamilton attained the position of inti- 
macy and influence with Washington he certainly 
occupied before the year was out. Washington 
found in him a secretary always apt and ready, 
clear-headed and well informed. Li addition to his 
intellectual qualifications, Hamilton possessed an 
advantage which he probably owed to his commer- 


cial training. His handwriting was beautifully dis- 
tinct and l^ble. His original papers preserved in 
the Library of Congress are^ in sheer mechanics, on 
a level with the work of a professional engrossing 
clerk. It was inevitable that having found such a 
treasure Washington would make steady use of it, 
and it is evident that he got into the habit of trust- 
ing much to Hamilton's ability and good judgment. 

Custis gives an intimate accoimt of scenes at 
headquarters. Washington was attended through- 
out the war by his body-servant, Will Lee, a stout, 
active nepo who wa» a fan>ous tollman. Billy, a^ 
everybody called him, always slept in call of his 
master. It was Washington's practice to turn over 
in his mind every morning the business to be at- 
tended to during the day, and sometimes he would 
lie on his couch thinking over matters after his aides 
had been dismissed for the night. When dispatches 
arrived, or when he had reached some conclusion 
requiring immediate action, the word would go to 
Billy: "Call Colonel Hamilton." 

It is noticeable that after Hamilton took chaige 
complaints of clerical difficulties cease to appear in 
Washington's familiar letters. It is also a plain in- 
ference that Hamilton was able to organize and sys- 
tematize the work so that he himself was not en- 
gulfed by it, for from time to time he was employed 
by Washington on important missions. Washing- 
ton's own letters certify this fact. When the news 


of Burgoyne's surrender reached Washington, Octo- 
ber, 1777, he sent Hamilton to confer with General 
Gates, bearing a letter saying: "Our affairs having 
happily terminated at the northward, I have, by the 
advice of my general officers, sent Colonel Hamilton, 
one of my aides, to lay before you a full state of our 
situation. . . . From Colonel Hamilton you will 
have a clear and comprehensive view of things, and 
I persuade myself you will do all in yom* power to 
facihtate the objects I have in contemplation." 
This was certainly an important trust to confide to 
a youth of twenty. Although necessarily occupied 
most of the time by staff duties, it appears that 
Hamilton was eager to be where the fighting was 
going on. Custis relates an incident of the battle 
of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, which has doubtless 
received some melodramatic color in its transmis- 
sion, but the main facts are quite in keeping with 
the characteristics both of Hamilton and Washing- 
ton. The behavior of General Lee had upset Wash- 
ington's plans and left the army exposed to great 
peril. Washington was so incensed that he called 
Lee to his face "a damned poltroon." Lafayette, 
who was present, says it was the only time he "ever 
heard General Washington swear.'' Hamilton leaped 
from his horse and, drawing his sword, said: "We 
are betrayed; your Excellency and the army are 
betrayed, and the moment has arrived when every 
true friend of America and her cause must be ready 


to die in their defence." Hamilton was not in the 
habit of using such stilted language^ but that he 
suspected treachery and sprang to meet it is quite 
probable. Washington's part in this anecdote bears 
the stamp of authenticity, both as to words and 
action. '^ Pointing to the Colonel's horse that was 
cropping the herbage, Washington calmly observed, 
'Colonel Hamilton, you will take your horse.'" 

One outcome of the discussion over General Lee's 
behavior was a duel between him and Colonel Lau- 
rens, in which Hamilton acted as Laurens's second, 
and Major Edwards acted for Lee. It appears from 
a statement drawn up by the seconds that the imme- 
diate occasion of the duel was that "General Lee 
had spoken of General Washington in the grossest 
and most opprobrious terms of personal abuse, 
which Colonel Lawens thought himself bound to 
resent, as well on account of the relation he bore to 
General Washington as from motives of personal 
friendship and respect for his character," Laurens 
was one of Washington's aides-de-camp. The duel 
took place on Christmas Eve, 1778, and was 
fought with pistols, each advancing and firing 
when he saw fit. Lee was slightly wounded in the 
right side at the first discharge. He demanded 
another exchange of shots, but the seconds inter- 
vened and decided that the affair should end where 
it was. Lee, while insisting upon his right to criti- 
cise Washington's military abilities, disavowed any 


intention of reflecting upon Washington's character 
as a man, and denied ever having spoken of him in 
terms of personal abuse. Hamilton and Edwards 
made a minute of the affair, in which they conclude: 
" Upon the whole, we think it a piece of justice to 
the two gentlemen to declare, that after they met, 
their conduct was strongly marked with all the po- 
hteness, generc^ity, coolness and firmness, that 
ought to characterize a transaction of this nar 

In this year Hamilton came of age, and there are 
strong evidences of his increasing usefulness to 
Washington. He was picked out for services requii^ 
ing shrewdness and good judgment as well as intre- 
pidity. He is a prominent figure in all of Washing- 
ton's dealings with Congress and with other com- 
manders, and always acquitted himself with credit. 
His prominence, of course, attracted the malice of 
the Tories. One of their prints in 1779 contained 
the report: "It is said little Hamilton, the poet and 
composer to the Lord Protector, Mr. Washington, is 
engaged upon a literary work which is intended to 
give posterity a true estimate of the present rebellion 
and its supporters, in case Clinton's light bobs 
should extirpate the whole race of rebels this cam- 
paign." An item published in 1780 says that "Mrs. 
Washington has a mottled tom-cat (which she calls 
in a complimentary way, 'Hamilton,') with thirteen 
yellow rings around his tail, and that his flaunting it 


suggested to the Congress the adoption of the same 
number of stripes for the rebel flag." 

So long as commimications were possible Hamilton 
tried to keep in touch with his friends at St. Croix 
by letters to Mr. Knox. There is no better ex- 
planation of Washington's strat^y than Hamilton 
gave in a letter recounting the disasters of 1777. 
He prepared his West Indian friends for more bad 
news by admitting American inabiHty to stand 
against British troops, but went on to say: "It. may 
be asked, if, to avoid a general engagement, we give 
up objects of the first importance, what is to hinder 
the enemy from carrying every important point and 
mining us? My answer is, that our hopes are not 
placed in any particular city or spot of ground, but 
in the preserving a good army, f mnished with proper 
necessaries, to take advantage of favorable oppor- 
timities, and waste and defeat the enemy by piece- 
meal. Every new post they take, requires a new 
division of their forces, and enables us to strike with 
oiu' imited force against a part of theirs." This out- 
lines the poUcy that was in the end successful. 



The influences that shaped Hamilton's career and 
energized his activities as a statesman cannot be 
appreciated without taking into account the char- 
axjteristics. of the struggle as they were revealed in 
actual experience. The men who led the movement 
for armed resistance to British policy were well 
aware that this would cause a dissolution of public 
order that would bring in a train of miseries. But 
they thought that civil war, with all its risks, was 
preferable to the surrender of constitutional rights 
through submission to the jurisdiction of the British 
ParUament over the colonies in the matter of taxa- 
tion. Nevertheless, they felt keenly and much de- 
plored the turbulence and anarchy produced by the 
disorders of the times. It has been noted that 
Hamilton, while still at college, observed this ten- 
dency, analyzed its natm^e, and urged upon John 
Jay the necessity of stationing troops in New York 
to keep order. A diary kept by the Reverend Mr. 
Shewkirk, pastor of the Moravian Church, New 
York, has this entry, Jime 13, 1776: "Here in town 
very imhappy and shocking scenes were exhibited. 
On Monday night some men called Tories were car- 
ried and hauled about through the streets, with 




B Hamiltoi 

^L don relat 

candles forced to be held by them, or pushed in their 
faces, and their heads burned; but on Wednesday, 
in the open day, the scene was by far worse; several, 
and among them gentlemen, were carried on rails; 
some stripped naked and dreadfully abused." 

Hamilton's orderly mind detested such rufBanism, 
of which there were many instances. Alexander 
Graydon's Memoirs describes "the fashion of tar- 
ring, feathering, and carting" inflicted upon the 
Tories. One of the victims was Isaac Hunt, then a 
lawyer but subsequently a clergyman with a charge 
in Barbados. He became the father of Leigh Hunt, 
the English poet, essayist, and journalist. Graydon 
mentions that, when Doctor Kearsley, a prominent 
citizen of Philadelphia, was carted because of his 
Tory opinions, he "was seized at his own door by a 
party of the militia, and in the attempt to resist 
them received a wound in his hand from a bayonet." 
MiUtia of this class were the very kind whose liabil- 
ity to panic and precipitate retreat was the con- 
tinual source of military disaster. 

Graydon is a trustworthy witness. He was 
twenty-three when the Revolutionary War began, 
and on January 6, 1776, he was commissioned cap- 
tain in a Pennsylvania regiment. He was well edu- 
cated, a lawyer by profession, and he went into the 
war with just such patriotic motives as had actuated 
Hamilton, whom Graydon greatly admired. Gray- 
don relates that when he joined the army in New . 



^York it was characterized by "irregiilaritj', want of 
discipline, bad arms, and defective equipment in 
all respects." Among the "miserably constituted 
bands from New England" the only force deserving 
respect was a Marblehead regiment under John 
Glover. Graydon was informed that "it was no 
unusual thing in the army before Boston, for a 
colonel to make drummers and fifers of his sons, 
thereby, not only being enabled to form a veiy snug, 
economical mess, but to aid also considerably the 
revenue to the family chest." Graydon, who had 
been much impressed with New England valor by 
the accounts that reached him of Bunker Hill, was 
puzzled to account for the poor quality of the New 
England troops, and particularly the absence of 
gentry among them. "There were some, indeed, in 
the higher ranks, and here and there a man of 
decent breeding, in the capacity of an aide-de-camp 
or a brigade major; but anything above the condi- 
tion of a clown, in the regiments we came in contact 
with, was a rarity." But conditions were not much 
better in the militia from other provinces. Gray- 
don relates that the colonel of his own regiment ob- 
tained leave of absence to visit his family and never 
returned. Graydon himself and some other officers 
were tempted to follow "his illaudable example," 
so disgusted were they with the jobbery of the Pro- 
vincial Council, who "went on in the manufacture 
of majors and colonels, in utter disregard of the 


daims of the officers in service, and sometimes of 
the coarsest materials." At the time when Wash- 
ington was with the remnant of his army at Morria- 
town suffering from lack of men and supplies, Gray- 
don notes that "captains, majors, and colonels had 
become 'good cheap' m the land; but unfortunately, 
those war functionaries were not found at the head 
of their men; they generally figured as bar-keepers, 
condescendingly serving out small measures of liquor 
to their less dignified customers." 

It might be supposed that this account could be 
explained away as an explosion of spleen, but the 
case is put as strongly by other observers. When ■ 
Baron de Kalb joined the army he was astonished 
to find that the blacksmith attached to his troop 
held a captain's commission. The Reverend Jacob 
Duch^, chaplain of Congress, in a letter to Washing- 
ton, October 16, 1777, remarked: "As to the army 
itself, what have you to expect from them ? Have 
they not frequently abandoned even yourself in the 
hour of extremity? Have you, can you have, the 
least confidence in a set of undisciplined men and 
officers, many of whom have been taken from the 
lowest of the people, without principle and without 
courage ? Take away those that surround your po 
Bon, how few are there that you can ask to sit at 
your table!" 

Washington's own opinion did not greatly differ 
from this, as many e:q)ressions in his letters attest. 



Writing under date of February 10, 1776, of the 
army he commanded before Boston, he remarked: 
"To be plain, these people are not to be depended 
upon if exposed"; but he added: "I do not apply 
this only to these people. I suppose it to be the 
case with all raw and undisciplined troops." Writ- 
ing soon after the engagements at Trenton and 
Princeton, the most creditable affairs of the New 
Jersey campaign, he said of the militia: "I am sure 
they never can be brought fairly up to an attack in 
any serious affair." 

In a letter written in 1780 Hamilton gave this 
account of the condition of the army: "It is now a 
mob, rather than an army; without clothing, with- 
out pay, without provision, without morals, without 
discipline. We begin to hate the country for its 
neglect of us. The country begins to hate us for 
our opprffisions of them." 

The Chevalier de la Luzerne, who was sent to 
the United States by the French Government to 
view the situation, reported April 16, 17S0: "It is 
difficult to form a just conception of the depredar 
tions which have been committed in the manage- 
inent of war supplies — forage, clothing, hospitals, 
tents, quarters, and transportation. About nine 
thousand men employed in this service, received 
enormous salaries and devoured the subsistence of 
the army, while it was tormented with hunger and 
the extremes of want." 


The C(»igre8sioiial pofiticians had constantfy in 
mind what happened to the English Parliament 
after they had aUowed Oliver Cromwell to create a 
disciplined army. John Adams, the chiurman d 
the War Board of CongresB, was a timid man. 
When news came of the approach of the British to 
Philadelphia from the southwest he rode northeast 
as far as Trenton, in his panicHstricken rush to get 
as far away as possible, before directing his course 
to Lancaster, where Congress was to reassemble, 
making his way thither through Bethlehem — a route 
so circuitous that it more than doubled the length 
of his journey. But there was no risk so great to 
his mind as allowing a regular army to be formed. 
Adams's adherence to the principle of the casual 
levies for short terms was so deeply resented by 
Hamilton that it was a leading coimt of his famous 
indictment of Adams over twenty years later. 

In addition to being an inefficient body, the Con- 
tinental Congress was a corrupt and extravagant 
body. Officers' commissions were treated as a pat- 
ronage fund in which members felt boimd to secure 
equitable allotments. In addition to costly pro- 
fusion there was favoritism so gross that Washing- 
ton had sometimes to protest. The favor of a mem- 
ber of Congress might be a more potent source of 
advancement than brave and capable service in the 
field. The immediate cause of Arnold's treason was 
the neglect of his claims in favor of much less deserv- 


ing officers who had political influence. In auch 
respects, however, the Continental Congress was 
quite true to type. Government by an assembly 
has been everywhere and alwajra corrupt, extravar 
gant, and inefficient government. The only consti- 
tutional function that an assembly can properly dia- 
chaige is to serve as a control over the government 
in behalf of the people, but the integrity of this 
function can be secured only by shutting it out from 
any participation in appointments to office or dis- 
bursement of public funds. Then and only then 
will it hold to strict accountabihty the administrar 
tive officers who do make appointments and dis- 
bursements. But this is representative government 
of the modem type, still rare in practice; in the 
eighteenth centiuy it was unknown. Most of the 
aasembhes that had existed in Europe had been 
abolished as intolerable impediments to efficient 
government. Those that still survived bore the 
feudal pattern of class interest and partitioned sov- 
ereignty, and even in England, where the represen- 
tative type was eventually developed, it was still 
inchoate in form and imrecognized in its essential 
character. In its general characteristics the Con- 
tinental Congress was like the Commonwealth Par- 
liament that Cromwell turned out of doors; but sug- 
gestions made to Washington that he ought to do 
likewise were indignantly rejected by that loyal 
ViiginiaD gentleman. 


The Continental Congress was probably no more 
addicted to corruption than is usually the case with 
assemblies of its type^ but there is evidence that 
rapid deterioration took place. It was referred to 
in the Reverend Jacob Duchy's letter already men- 
tioned. He said to Washington : " The most respect- 
able characters have withdrawn themselves^ and 
are succeeded by a great majority of illiberal and 
violent men. Your feelings must be greatly hurt 
by the representation from your native province. 
... As to those of my own province, some of 
them are so obscure that their very names never 
met my ears before, and others have only been dis- 
tinguished for the weakness of their understandings 
and the violence of their tempers. . . . From the 
New England provinces can you find one that as a 
gentleman you could wish to associate with ? imless 
the soft and mild address of Mr. Hancock can atone 
for his want of every other qualification necessary 
for the station he fills. Bankrupts, attorneys, and 
men of desperate futures are his colleagues.'' 

This estimate of the character of Congress, made 
by the clergyman who was then acting as its chap- 
lain, is corroborated by a letter written by Heniy 
Laurens, who succeeded Hancock as president of 
Congress. A letter he wrote in the summer of 
1778, in which he referred to "scenes of venalitj^, 
peculation and fraud" in Congress, was intercepted 
by the British and pubhshed to discredit the Ameri- 
can cause. 


Although Congress was probably no more corrupt 
than the Commonwealth Parliament in England, 
yet, so far as there is material for comparison, it is 
to be inferred that it was much more fond of ex- 
travagant display. The Puritan composition of the 
Commonwealth Parliament kept down the showy 
vices. Congress seemed to revel in display. The 
■men of whom it was originally composed included 
provincial magnates who hved in a lavish way 
themselves and regarded that as a proper incident 
of high station. The standard they set up was 
imitated by others at the pubUc expense, in all 
branches of the civil government. An mstructive 
document of the times is a bill for the entertainment 
given, December 1, 1778, in honor of the election of 
Joseph Reed as president of the Pennsylvania Coun- 
cil. The bill, contracted at a time when the army 
lacked food and clothing, amounted to £2,295 15s. 
It included such items as " 116 large bowls of punch," 
"2 tubs of grog for artillery soldiers," "I gallon 
spirits for bell ringers," "96 wine glasses broke," "5 
decanters broke." ' The festivities about Congress 
were never greater than dming the darkest period of 
the American cause. Washington wrote that "party 
disputes and personal quarrels are the great business 
of the day, whilst the momentous concerns of an 
empire, a great and accumulating debt, ruined 
finances, depreciated money, and want of credit, 

*The itemized account la ^ven in A. S. BoUes's Pennsylvania, 
K Pmiinee and Stale, vol. 11, p. 45. 


which in its consequences is the want of everything, 
are but secondary considerations and postponed 
from day to day and from week to week, as if our 
affaire wore the most promising aspect. . . . And 
yet an assembly, a concert, a dinner or a supper, 
will not only take men off from acting in this busi- 
ness, but even from thinking of it." 

In his persomd correspondence Hamilton sharply 
criticised the character of Congress. Writing to 
Governor Clinton, February 13, 1778, he said: 
" Many members of it are, no doubt, men in every 
respect fit for the trust, but this cannot be said of 
it as a body. Folly, caprice, a want of foresight, 
comprehension and dignity, comprise the general 
tenor of their action." Hamilton was so indignant 
with the behavior of a member of Congress that he 
twice assailed him in the public press, over the sig- 
nature " Publius/' which later he used for his Fed- 
eralist articles. He prefaced his attacks by a letter 
to the printer of the New York Journal, in which 
he said that "when a man appointed to be the guar- 
dian of the State and the depositary of the happiness 
and morals of the people, foigetful of the solemn 
relation in which he stands, descends to the dishon- 
est artifices of a mercantile projector, and sacrifices 
his conscience and his trust to pecuniary motives, 
there is no strain of abhorrence of which the human 
mind is capable, no punishment the vengeance of 
the people can inflict, which may not be applied to 


W him witt 


h im with justice." Two articles followed in which 
the member of Congress was told that he had shown 
that "America can already boast of at least one 
public character as abandoned as any history of 
past or present times can produce." The man 
Hamilton thus censured was a signer of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, Samuel Chase of Maryland. 
The particular charge against him was that, when 
General Wadsworth, the commissary-general, was 
arranging for purchases of flour, Chase delayed 
action by the committee of Congrras, meanwhile 
forming "connections for monopohzing that article, 
and raising the price upon the public more than one 
hundred per cent." Hamilton denounced this pro- 
ceeding as "an infamous traffic," and he character- 
ized Chase as a man m whom love of money and 
love of power predominated, and who was content 
with the merit of possessing qualities useful only to 
himself. The affair made a great stir at the time, 
but the charge did not prevent Chase from arriving 
at eminence in Maryland, and in 1796 he was ap- 
pointed a justice of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, from which office an ineffectual effort was 
made to remove him by impeachment. 

Hamilton's term of service as Washington's mili- 
tary secretary covered the period when the mal- 
administration was at its worst. Drafts of the most 
important reports made to Congress by Washington 
on general conditions exist among the Hamilton 


papers in his handwriting. Among those is the long 
report of January 28, 1778, on the reorganization of 
the army, addressed by Washington to the commit- 
tee of Congress that visited the camp at Valley 
Forge; the report on the oi^anization of the office of 
inspector-general, May 5, 1778, and also the actual 
plan as adopted by Congress, February 18, 1779; 
also, a number of reports on military discipline. 
He who prepares the reports of another person is in 
a position to influence that person's views and 
poUcy, and there is evidence that Hamilton wielded 
such influence. John Laurens, one of Washington's 
, was sent on a mission to France in 1781 to 
obtain aid in money and supplies. His instructions 
are all in the handwriting of Hamilton, with the 
exception of the four closing lines, which are in the 
handwriting of Washington. This document bears 
distinctly the marks of Hamilton's style and gives 
expression to his characteristic ideas on govern- 
ment. Hamilton's personal authorship is distinctly 
set forth in a comprehensive draft of military regu- 
lations which Hamilton proposed, "submitting to 
his Excellency the Commander-in-chief, to distin- 
guish such as may be published under his own 
authority in General orders, and such as will require 
the sanction and authority of the Committee of 

In a report to Congress on the military situation, 
August 20, 1780, Washington made a stem indict- 


W ment of the policy to which Congress had obsti- 
nately adhered. Thia report, which defines issues 
on which Congress has been at variance with expert 
authority in every national crisis down to our own 
times, bears the marks of Hamilton's composition in 
every line. It declares that "to attempt to carry 
on the war with militia against disciplined troops 
would be to attempt what the common sense and 
common experience of mankind will pronounce im- 
practicable." The practice of short enhstments is 
characterized as "pernicious beyond description," 
and a draft for three years or the length of the war 
is declared to be the only efifectual method. Then 
followed this eloquent passage: 

I Had we formed a permanent anny in the begimiing, 
which, by the continuance of the same men in service, 
had been capable of discipline, we never should have had 
to retreat with a handfu] of men across the Delaware in 
1776, trembling for the fate of America, which nothing 
but the infatuation of the enemy could have saved; we 
should not have remained all the succeeding winter at 
their mercy, with sometimes scarcely a sufficient body of 
men to mount the ordinary guards, liable at every moment 
to be dissipated, if they had only thought proper to march 
against us; we should not have been under the necessity 
of fighting at Brandywine, with an unequal number of 
raw troops, and afterwards of seeing Philadelphia fall a 
prey to a victorious army; we aliould not have been at 
Valley Forge with less than half tiie force of the enemy, 
destitute of everything, in a situation neither to resist nor 



to retire; we should not have seen New York left with a 
handful of men, yet an overmatch for the main army of 
these States, while the principal part of their force wa^ de- 
tached for the reduction of two of them; we should not 
have found ourselves this Spring so weak, as to be insulted 
by five thousand men, unable to protect our baggage and 
magazines, their security depending on a good counte- 
nance, and a want of enterprise in the enemy; we should 
not have been the greatest part of the war inferior to the 
enemy, indebted for our safety to their inactivity, endur- 
ing frequently the mortification of seeing inviting oppor- 
tunities to ruin them pass unimproved for want of a 
force, which the country was completely able to afford; 
to see the country ravaged, our towns burnt, the inhabi- 
tants plundered, abused, murdered with impunity from 
the same cause. 

Nor have the ill effects been confined to the military 
line. A great part of the embarrassments in the civil 
departments flow from the same source. The derange- 
ment of our finances is essentially to be ascribed to it. 
The expenses of the war, and the paper emissions have 
been greatly multiplied by it. We have had, a great part 
of the time, two sets of men to feed and pay, the discharged 
men going home and the levies coming in. . . . Our 
oflScers are reduced to the disagreeable necessity of pe> 
forming the duties of drill sergeants to them, and with this 
mortifying reflection annexed to the business, that by the 
time they have taught those men the rudiments of a sol- 
dier's duty, their term of service will have expired, and 
the work is to recommence with an entire new set. The 
consumption of provision, arms, accoutrements, stores of 
every kind, has been doubled in spite of every precaution 
I could use, not only from the cause just mentioned, but 
from the carelessness and licentiousness incident to militia 


and iir^ular troops. Our discipline also has been much 
injured, if not ruined, by such constant changes. The fre- 
quent calls upon the militia have interrupted the cultiva- 
tion (A the land, and of course have lessened the quantity 
of its produce occasioned a scarcity, and aihanced the 
prices. In an army so unstable as ours, order and econ- 
omy have been impracticable. • • • 

There is every reascm to believe the war has been 
protracted on this account. Our opposition being less, 
made the successes of the enemy greater. The fluctuation 
of the army kept alive their hopes, and at every period 
of the dissdution ct a considerable part of it, they have 
flattered themsdves with some decisive advantages. Had 
we kept a permanent army cm foot, the enemy could have 
had nothing to hope for, and would in all probability have 
listened to terms long since. • • • It is an old maxim, 
that the surest way to make a good peace is to be well 
prepared for war. 

It was whfle undergoing such experiences that 
Hamilton began to form the plans which he even- 
tually applied to the organization of public authority. 



About the time that Hamilton became an aide to 
Washington^ he was asked to correspond with the 
New York Convention through a committee, then 
composed of Gouvemeur Morris, Robert livingiston, 
and William Allison. In a letter of March 20, 1777, 
he gave his understanding of the arrangement as 
being that; so far as his leisure would permit and his 
duty warrant, he should " commimicate such pieces 
of intelligence as shall be received, and such com- 
ments upon them as shall appear necessary to con- 
vey a true idea of what is going on in the military 
line." That the Convention should have thought it 
important to establish such relations with a youth 
of twenty, might easily be construed as evidence of 
the deep impression already made by Hamilton's 
personality upon the public men with whom he was 
brought in contact; but a more probable opinion is 
that at the outset the arrangement was the e^^res- 
sion of provincial solicitude, not to say jealousy, 
about transactions to which the State was a party 
and which yet lay beyond the bounds of State 
authority. The particularist spirit was then the 
strongest force in American politics^ and, although 



yielding much to the military necessities of the situ- 
ation, it did so reluctantly and with large reserve. 

The result of this arrangement was a series of 
reports from Hamilton on the progress of the cam- 
paign and the prospects of the American cause, 
showing such clear vision and sound judgment that 
his reputation as a publicist, started by his early 
pamphlets, was confirmed, extended, and perma- 
nently established. General recognition of Hamil- 
ton's position among the leading men of New York 
dates from this period. The hospitality which 
Hamilton had received on arriving in New York 
was no more than was then readily extended to any 
visitor who had the dress and maimers of poUte 
society. Its significance of individual value was 
slight. But the position he speedily acquired after 
becoming the correspondent of the New York Con- 
vention was decidedly that of individual distinction. 
In a few months leading men were consulting him 
about the form of government to be adopted in 
New York. In May, 1777, Gouvemeur Morris sent 
a pamphlet describing the scheme he proposed. In 
reply Hamilton remarked that while considering it 
"in the main as a wise and excellent system, I freely 
confess it appears to me to have some faults. ' ' There 
is no indication that Morris regarded this as a pre- 
sumptuous attitude for a youth of twenty to take. 
Morris aigued the case, defending the partitions of 
authority and system of checks he proposed on the 


usual ground of the caprice and instabilily of the 
mass of the people. Hamilton's ccxnment is sur- 
prising in its discernment (rf the princq>les iqxm 
which democratic government may be and has been 
safely established. He observed: ''That instability 
is inherent in the nature ci popular governments I 
think very dilutable; unstable democracy is an 
epithet frequently in the mouths cS politicians^ but 
I believe that from a strict examination of the mat- 
ter—from the records of history^ it will be f oimd 
that the fluctuations of governments in which the 
popular principle has borne a considerable sway, 
have proceeded from its being compounded with 
other principles; and from its being made to operate 
in an improper channel. Compound governments^ 
though they may be harmonious in the b^inning; 
will introduce distinct interests, and these interests 
will clash, throw the State into convulsions, and 
produce a change or dissolution. When the delib- 
erative or judicial powers are vested wholly or partly 
in the collective body of the people, you must e:q)ect 
error, confusion, and instability. But a representa- 
tive democracy, where the right of election is well 
secured and regulated, and the exercise of the l^i&- 
lative, executive, and judiciary authorities is vested 
in select persons, chosen really and not nominally 
by the people, will, in my opinion, be most likely to 
be happy, regular and durable." 
This judgment, now so abundantly vindicated by 


the experience of Switzerland^ Australia, New Zear 
land; Canada, and even little Barbados, with its 
n^ro electorate, under a simple form of representa- 
tive democracy, as contrasted with the results of 
the compound government adopted by American 
States, (&plays a prescience that, for the period, is 
simply amazing. At that time the prevailing opin- 
ion in Eiux)pe was that absolutism had been the 
form of government most successful in preserving 
public order, whereas all other forms that had been 
tried had failed on that essential point. Although 
in England the actual form precluded absolutism, 
so acute and dispassionate a thinker as Hume held 
that ^'we shall at last, after many convulsions and 
civil wars, find repose in absolute monarchy^ which 
it would have been happier for us to have estab- 
lished peaceably from the beginning.'' At a time 
when Hamilton was imbibing political ideas in his 
boyhood in the West Indies, Oliver Goldsmith was 
describing repubUcs as places "where the laws gov- 
ern the poor and the rich govern the laws," and was 
contending that every diminution of the power of 
the sovereign was "an infringement upon the real 
liberties of the subject.'' The concept of represen- 
tative democracy, guarded against abuse of power, 
not by partition or limitation of authority but by 
exact accoimtability and full responsibility for every 
act of power, was quite unknown at the time Ham- 
ilton wrote. The plebeianizing of authority had 


b^un in New England; through the town-meeting 
system which Congregationalism had extracted from 
medieval parish arrangements; but nowhere was 
democracy in greater disrepute. John Adams's vo- 
luminous writings on politics are a continual dii*ge on 
the iniquity of democracy. Compound government, 
giving the people a shce of power but conferring the 
real control upon magisterial authority, was the 
most extreme concession thought to be practicable. 
Hamilton's views had no effect upon the character 
of the State constitution adopted by New York in 
1777. Indeed; his ideas had not then been put into 
systematic form, but were expressed merely in the 
way of dissent from the principles upon which the 
scheme of a State constitution was framed. How- 
ever, the processes of his thought had already begun 
which eventually found practical expression in the 
organization of national authority. The ideas which 
he eventually put into practical effect, in his work 
as Secretary of the Treasury, were first stated in 
papers prepared while in winter quarters at Morris- 
town in 1779-80. The first of these, the extant 
draft of which is undated, affords internal evidence 
that it was written about November, 1779. It is in 
the form of a letter, addressed to a member of Con- 
gress who is not mentioned by name. J. C. Hamil- 
ton, in his biography, says that it was sent "to 
Robert Morris, then a delegate from Pennsylvania 
to Congress," and this statement has been generally 


accepted by subsequent biographers. But Robert 
Morris was not at that time a member of Congress, 
his term having expired November 1, 1778. And if 
the letter was to Robert Morris, why was it sent 
anonymously? Hamilton was then on easy terms 
with Morris, but the letter says that, "though the 
writer has reasons which make him imwilling to be 
known, if a personal conference with him should be 
thought material he will endeavor to comply"; and 
that he may be communicated with by letter "di- 
rected to James Montague, Esquire, lodged in the 
Post Office at Morristown." It was not Hamilton's 
wont to be so shy, nor is there any other mark of 
such a feeling in his correspondence at this period. 
It is at least a plausible conjecture that this letter 
was addressed to Major-General John SuUivan, then 
a member of Congress from New Hampshire. He 
commanded a division at Trenton, Brandywine, and 
Grermantown, and in military rank Hamilton was 
much his inferior. This would account for the cau- 
tious approach made by Hamilton. Certain it is 
that SuUivan received such a deep impression of 
Hamilton's ability as a financier that he thought of 
having Hamilton appointed to the position of super- 
intendent of finance, and wrote to Washington about 
it. If Hamilton's letter was to Sullivan and was 
followed by personal interviews, that would explain 
SuUivan's behavior, which otherwise seems unac- 
countable. The letter discussed the means of estab- 


lishing a national bank, and it is the earliest known 
American project of that character. As it turned 
out, nothing came of Sullivan's proceedings. In 
February, 1781, he wrote to Washington; "I found 
the ^es of Congress turned upon Robert Morris as 
financier. I did not therefore nominate Colonel 
Hamilton, as I foresaw it would be a vain attempt." 
Hamilton himself had strongly recommended 
Morris for that post, and when some difficulties oc- 
curred between Morris and Congress as to the extent 
of his authority Hamilton addressed to him the 
most earnest plea in favor of his retention of the 
office. "I know of no other in America," he said, 
"who unites so many advantages; and of course 
every impediment to your acceptance is to me a 
subject of chagrin. I flatter myself Congress will 
not preclude the public from your services by an 
obstinate refusal of reasonable conditions; and, aa 
one deeply interested in the event, I am happy in 
believing you will not easily be discouraged from 
undertaking an office, by which you may render 
America, and the world, no less a service than the 
> establishment of American independence ! "Tis by 

/ I introducing order into our finances — by restoring 
I public credit— not by gaining battles, tiiat we are 

Nj, finally to gain our object." 

This letter bears date of April 30, 1781, at which 
time Hamilton had not long turned twenty-four. 
Thus it appears that he had already adopted the 


economic criterion of political values, which was the 
guiding principle of his statesmanship. The letter 
does not merely urge Morris to face irksome respon- 
sibilities; it goes on to discuss the ways and means. 
"In expectation that all difficulties will be removed," 
he remarked, "I take the liberty to submit to you 
some ideas relative to the objects of yotir depart- 
ment." He proceeds at a length of over 14,000 
words to offer what is, in fact, a systematic treatise 
on public finance, from the standpoint of American 
needs and interests, strongly recommending "the 
institution of a National Bank,'* for which he offers ( 
detailed plans digested into twenty articles, each of 
which is accompanied by explanatory remarks. 

At that time Robert Morris was forty-seven years 
old. In twenty years of successful activity as a 
Philadelphia merchant he had gained a competence 
and was more desirous of taking his ease than of 
increasing his engagements. But his position and 
ability kept attracting public employment, and 
wherever he was management of financial arrange- 
ments seemed to drift naturally to him, not so much 
by express assignment as on the principle that the 
willing horse draws the load. Although he was 
elected Superintendent of Finance on February 20, 
1781, he was loath to accept the troublesome office 
and Hamilton's advice and suggestions can hardly 
have failed to influence his decision. He did not 
shrink from responsibility, but, like every man of 


his calibre, he detested ignorant and incompetent 
interference. The idea with which the Congressional 
politicians started out was apparently that it would 
be the function of the superintendent to be a sort of 
managing clerk acting imder a committee of Con- 
gress. Morris properly insisted that ''the appoint- 
ment of all persons who are to act in my office, under 
the same roof, or in immediate connection with me, 
should be made by m3^self,'' after agreement with 
Congress as to their number and their pay. He 
also was firm on the point that he should have an 
absolute power of dismissal. Congress, always more 
intent upon its patronage than anything else, was 
very reluctant to grant these reasonable demands, 
but at last grudgingly yielded, and on May 14 Mor- 
ris formally accepted his appointment. In all these 
matters Hamilton's influence was steadily exerted 
in Morris's favor. 

Hamilton's scheme of a national bank, as then 
drawn up, has been criticised by experts as contain- 
ing some of the financial fallacies of the age. The 
treatise supplies internal evidence that it was based 
upon study of European models, and it is stamped 
with the ideas of the times. As Professor Sumner 
has justly observed: '^It is the statesmanship of it 
that is grand; not the finance.'' 

The quality of his statesmanship had already 
been more brilliantly revealed, in a letter of Septem- 
ber 3, 1780, to James Duane, a New York member 


of CoDgreaBy who had requested Hamfltcm's opinion 
as to the way to ooirect the defects of the govern- 
ment. HianiiltOQ criticised the oiganization and 
the bdiavior (A Congress. He hdd that ''the man- 
ner in which CcHigress was appointed would war- 
rant, and the pubHc good required, that they should 
have considered thionsdves as vested with full 
power to preserve the republic from harmJ^ By the 
phrase he italicized he avoided discussion of the 
origin and extent d the authority intentionally 
granted to Congress, consideration of which would 
have opened a subject interminable in its nature, 
as has ance often been shown. He went to the 
heart of the matter by pcHnting out that Congress 
had in fact ''done many of the highest acts of sov- 
ereignty, which were always cheerfully submitted 
to: the declaration of independence, the declaration 
of war, the levying of an army, creating a navy, 
emitting money, making alliances with foreign pow- 
ers, appointing a dictator, etc." But Congress had 
been "timid and indecisive" in matters auxiliary 
and subordinate to the sovereignty they had actually 
assumed and exercised. The gist of Hamilton's re- 
marks upon this point is that by failing to seize the 
taxing powers they had sunk into a state of helpless 
dependence on the States. "That power which 
holds the purse strings absolutely must rule." Con- 
federation had had no practical result. "The par- 
ticular States have no further attended to it than 



as it suited their pretensions and convenience." 
But, even were it respected, the Confederation was 
inadequate. "It is neither fit for war or peace." 
Hamilton then appealed to the lessons of history to 
show that a government cannot maintain itself xm- 
less it can act directly upon its citizenship through 
its own police power. "The idea of an uncontrollar 
ble sovereignty in each State over its internal police 
will defeat the other powers given to Congress and 
make our union feeble and precarious." It would 
be even more so than the league of the Swiss can- 
tons, which had been maintained through ties of 
union due to special circmnstances. "These ties 
will not exist in America; a little time hence some of 
the States will be powerful empires; and we are so 
remote from other nations, that we shall have all 
the leisure and opportimity we can wish to cut each 
other's throats." The time came when this grira 
anticipation was fulfilled, through the constitutional 
defect that Hamilton instanced. It took a civil war 
to destroy Stat« pretensions of uncontrollable sov- 

In addition to being subject to defect of power, 
Congress was addicted to misuse of power. "Con- 
gress have kept the power too much in their own 
hands, and have meddled too much with details of 
every sort. Congress is, properly, a deliberative 
corps, and it forgets itself when it attempts to play 
the executive." This observation, quite as appliear 


ble to Congress now as when it was written, he ex- 
plains by considerations even more cogent now than 
then: "It is impossible such a body, numerous as it 
is, and constantly fluctuating, can ever act with suffi- 
cient decision or with system. Two-thirds of the 
members, one-half the time, cannot know what has 
gone before them, or what connection the subject in 
hand has to what has been transacted on former oc- 
casions. The members who have been more per- 
manent, wiU only give information that promotes 
the side they espouse in the present case, and will as 
often mislead as enlighten. The variety of business ' 
must distract, and the proneness of every assembly 
to debate must at all times delay." The remedy, 
he urged, was to create executive departments, each 
with one man at its head. "As these men will be, 
of course, at all times under the direction of Con- 
gress, we shall blend the advantages of a monarchy 
and a republic in our constitution." He points out 
that this would not lessen the importance of Con- 
gress. "They would have precisely the same rights 
and powers as heretofore, happily disenciunbered of 
the detail. They would have to inspect the conduct 
of their ministers, dehberate upon their plans, origi- 
nate others for the pubUc good; only observing this 
rule — that they ought to consult their ministers, and 
get all the information and advice they could from 
them, before they entered into any new measures, or 
made changes in the old." The adoption of such a 



system, he held, "would give new life and energy 
to the operations of the government* Business 
would be conducted with dispatch, method and sys- 
tem. A million abuses now existing, would be cor- 
rected, and judicious plans would be formed and 
executed for the public good." 

Government of this natm^ is yet to be introduced 
in the United States, and the characteristic defects 
of Congress when that body was originally formed 
have been perpetuated; but Hamilton's plan is an 
exact anticipation of what has been effected in the 
organization and procedure of the Congress of Swit- 
zerland, whose model was arrived at by correcting 
the defects of the American Constitution in just the 
way that Hamilton recommended, accomplishing 
just those results of economy and efficiency which 
he predicted. The most democratic country in the 
world has a constitution exactly such as Hamilton 
proposed for the United States. It is more than 
resemblance; it is identity, although arrived at inde- 
pendently by Swiss publicists, forming one of the 
Lost inlLLg p Jleb in lU^ll cert»My 
the most complete. 

Proceeding to a consideration of the steps to be 
taken to accomplish the needed improvements, Ham- 
ilton observed that the only practical alternative 
was either for Congress to resume and exercise sov- 
ereign authority or else to call a convention of the 
States to form a new constitution. The first plan 


he did not believe to be really available. It "will 
be thought too bold an expedient by the generality 
of Congress; and, indeed, their practice hitherto has 
so riveted the opinion of their want of power, that 
the success of this experiment may very well be 
doubted." The other mode, the convention plan, 
he thought was practicable, and he gave this account 
of the powers that should be granted to the general 
government: "Congress should have complete sov- 
ereignty in all that relates to war, peace, trade, 
fin^ce; and to the management of foreign affairs; 
the right of declaring war; of raising armies, officer- 
ing, paying them, directing their motions in every 
^t,l equipping fleete, and doing the same 
with them; of building fortifications, arsenals, mag- 
azines, etc., etc.; of making peace on such conditions 
as they think proper; of regulating trade, determin- 
ing with what countries it shall be carried on, grant- 
ing indulgences; laying prohibitions on all the arti- 
cles of e^ort or import; imposing duties; granting 
bounties and premiums for raising, exporting or im- 
porting, and applying to their own use the product 
of these duties — only giving credit to the States on 
which they are raised in the general accoimt of rev- 
enues and expenses; instituting Admiralty, Courts, 
etc.; of coining money; establishing banks on such 
terms, and with such privileges as they think proper; 
appropriating funds, and doing whatever else relates 
to the operations of finance; transacting everything 


with foreign nations; making alliances, offensiTeand 
defensive, treaties of commerce, etc., etc." 

On comparing this project witli the scheme actu- 
ally introduced by the adoption of the Constitution, 
a general resemblance will be noted, but some im- 
portant differences will appear. The most import 
tant is that Hamilton reser\'ed to the States a field 
of taxation which the Constitution opened concur- 
rently to the nation^ government, with the result 
that the field has been so extensively occupied as to 
crowd State authority out of it to an extent that 
leaves it little available for State use. The raising 
of money "by internal taxes," which Hamilton then 
thought ought to be reserved to State authority, is 
now so largely a federal function that the States 
have been practically deprived of the most commo- 
dious and lucrative sources of revenue in that field. 
State apportionment of credit for revenue raised 
from duties upon exports or imports, figured in Ham- 
ilton's scheme, and was probably meant to conciliate 
the particularist tendencies then so powerful. It did 
not find a place in the Constitution. Moreover, the 
Hamilton plan confers more power and dignity upon 
Congress than have been actually realized under the 
Constitution, but this has been due more to the char- 
acter of pohtical development under the Constitution 
than to the language of the Constitution itself. At 
present Congress by no means has complete control 
over the particulars mentioned by Hamilton; but the 


legsl basis of power upon which Congress acts is as 
ample as was originally that of the British Parlia- 
ment, and the actual inferiority of Congress is to be 
attributed to defects in the way in which its consti- 
tutional authority has been organized and applied. 
Its lack of direct contact with the administration — a 
circumstance not provided by the Constitution but 
by its own rules — ^is the principal cause of its inferi- 

The most remarkable feature of the Hamilton 
plan, and the most impressive evidence of the cool, 
dispassionate, enlightened character of his statesman- 
ship, is the exalted station he sought to provide for 
Congress, at a time when Congress had become so 
corrupt and inefficient that the sharpest censures 
were passed upon its character. The usual tendency 
is to take power away where it has been abused, 
and provide new seciuities for public order by a new 
distribution of authority and by imposing new 
checks, limitations, and restraints. This process has 
been carried out in American State constitutions 
until they form as great a labyrinth of particular 
agency and coordinate powers as ever existed under 
the feudal sjrstem, to which in essence American 
politics are a reversion. That a young man only 
twenty-three years of age, acting in circumstances 
whose ordinary effect was to produce deep aversion, 
should have discerned that the true remedy for the 
misconduct of Congress lay in enlarging its powers 


and in augmenting its responsibilities, was an amaz- 
ing exhibition of piercing insight, no parallel for 
which is to be found at that period except in the 
writings of Edmund Biu*ke. Hamilton anticipated 
the means by which democracy has really been 
established, wherever that result has been actu- 
ally attained. It has not yet been attained in the 
United States because those means have not yet 
been employed. The chara<.teristic principle of 
feudalism — ^fractional sovereignty — still rules Ameri- 
can politics, and responsible government is just be- 
ginning to appear as the proper goal of effort. As 
democratic principles of government advance in the 
United States, the more wonderful will it appear that 
in the darkest night there was a youthful statesman 
who had the vision of a day so remote that it has 
still to dawn in its perfect power and beauty. 



Graydon, in his Memoirs, gives a striking picture 
of the social position held by Hamilton. Graydon, 
who had been a prisoner of war for eight months in 
the hands of the British, sought the American camp, 
then at Morristown, as soon as he was released, and 
was entertained at Washington's quarters. "Here, 
for the first time,'' Graydon relates, "I had the 
pleasure of knowing Colonel Hamilton. He pre- 
sided at the General's table, where we dined; and in 
a large company in which there were several ladies, 
among whom I recollect one or two of the Miss Liv- 
ingstons and a Miss Brown, he acquitted himself 
with an ease, propriety and vivacity, which gave me 
the most favorable impression of his talents and 
accomplishments — ^talents, it is true, which did not 
indicate the solid abilities his subsequent career has 
unfolded, but which announced a brilliancy which 
might adorn the most polished circles of society." 

The ofl&cers about Washington were of his own 
selection, and the contrast between the tone of man- 
ners at headquarters and that which was usually 
displayed by ofl&cers of the class who got their 
positions through Congressional patronage, was 



such as ladies would be quick to recognize. The 
character of many holders of commissions was such 
as to give point to General Conway's query: "Did 
Congress see you before they appointed you ? " The 
social distinction of the Washington circle was aug- 
mented in 1777 by the arrival of the Marquis de 
Lafayette and other French officers. Hamilton's 
familiar knowledge of French facilitated intimacies 
that had an important bearing on the issues of the 
war. At the time Lafayette joined the army Wash- 
ington was under a cloud, and an intrigue to displace 
him was under way. Lafayette wrote home that 
Washington's "best friends, Greene, Hamilton and 
Ejiox, were decried." Attempts were made to win 
Lafayette to the side of the Congressional cabal, but 
they did not move him. He wrote: "Attached to 
the General, and still more to the cause, I did not 
hesitate, but held to him whose ruin was antici- 

This was really the turning-point of the Revolu- 
tionary struggle. It was saved by the French alli- 
ance after it had been ruined by the behavior of 
Congress. The relations into which Hamilton easily 
and naturally entered with the French officers, pro- 
viding them with a source of clear and accurate in- 
formation, exerted an influence of inestimable value 
at this crisis. At the same time it identified Ham- 
ilton with coteries possessing the social briUiancy and 
distinction always attractive to women, and pro- 


vided for him friendships that were sometimes at- 
tended by embarrassments. To one lady, who had 
applied in behalf of friends who wanted to pass 
through the American lines, Hamilton softened his 
refusal by writing in a style of high-flown gallantry, 
concluding with the remark: "Trifling apart, there 
is nothing would give me greater pleasure than to 
have been able to serve Miss Livingston and her 
friends on this occasion, but circumstances really 
did not permit it." 

In December, 1779, Hamilton wrote a letter to his 
intimate friend, John Laurens, in which, after some 
banter on Laurens's personal affairs he turns to his 
own, sajdng: "And now, my dear, as we are upon 
the subject of wife, I empower and command you to 
get me one in Carolina. Such a wife as I want will, 
I know, be difficult to be found, but if you succeed, 
it will be the stronger proof of your zeal and dex- 
terity. Take her description — she must be young, 
handsome (I lay most stress upon a good shape), 
sensible (a little learning will do), well bred (but she ^ 
must have an aversion to the word ton), chaste and^ 
tender (I am an enthusiast in my notions of fidelity 
and fondness), of some good natm-e, a great deal of 
generosity (she must neither love money nor scold- 
ing, for I dislike equally a termagant and an econ- 
omist). In politics I am indifferent what side she 
may be of. I think I have arguments that will 
easily convert her to mine. As to rehgion a mo^Qrr 


V ate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in God 
and hate a saint/' 

In the succeeding portion of the letter Hamilton 
turns it all off as a joke. ''I am ready to ask myself 
what could have put it into my head to hazard this 
jeu de folie. Do I want a wife? No. I have 
plagues enough without desiring to add to the num- 
ber that greatest of all. . . ." 

At that time he had already met the lady who 
was to become his wife, although his relations with 
her had not then advanced beyond bare acquain- 
tance. When Hamilton was sent by Washington on 
a mission to General Gates in the autiunn of 1777, 
he visited the Schuyler mansion at Albany, and 
among those to whom he was introduced was Gen- 
eral Schuyler's second daughter, Elizabeth, then 
just turned twenty. Colonel Tench Tilghman, who 
had had that honor some two years before, described 
her as "a brunette with the most good-natured, 
dark, lovely eyes that I ever saw, which threw a 
beam of good humor and benevolence over hef en- 
tire coimtenance." He remarked: "I was prepos- 
sessed in favor of this yoimg lady the moment I saw 
her." If Hamilton was similarly impressed on his 
first meeting, there is no record of it, and his letter 
of 1779 to Lam-ens does not suggest that his fancy 
had then been caught by any one. The circum- 
stances of Hamilton's visit in 1777 were such as to 
.give: anxious occupation to his thoughts. Washing- 


ton's authority as commander-in-chief was being 
imdennined and Gates's attitude was disrespectful. 
It is quite possible that when he then visited General 
Schuyler to confer on the situation, the casual intro- 
duction he received to the daughter made no im- 
pression on him at the time. The young lady was, 
of course, differently circumstanced, and those bright 
eyes of hers could hardly have failed to note Hamil- 
ton's handsome appearance and polished manners. 
Philip Schuyler, bom in 1733, inherited a large 
estate from his father, and he was eminent and 
active in provincial affairs at the outbreak of the 
Revolution. like Washington himself, Schuyler was 
a representative of the landed gentry whose adhe- 
sion to the Revolutionary movement gave to it in- 
fluence and respectability without which it would 
probably have collapsed. He belonged to one of 
the great patroon famiUes of New York, aUied by 
ties of close kinship to the Van Cortlandts and the 
Van Rensselaers. When men of the lawyer-poli- 
tician type obtained the ascendancy in Congress, 
Schuyler became a mark for their intrigues. He 
was the general in command of the forces collected 
to repel Bm^oyne's invasion, and, like Washington 
at the same period, he had all he could do in main- 
taining the show of an armed force, lack of order, 
discipline, and equipment precluding any operation 
more important than an occasional foray. He be- 
haved with fine magnanimity when Congress super- 


seded him in favor of Gates^ who arrived in time to 
take credit for the battle of Saratoga^ the fruit of 
Schuyler's management. At the time of Hamilton's 
mission Congress was inclined to supersede Wash- 
ington alsO; and did, in fact^ pass an order prohibit- 
ing him from exercising any considerable authority 
in the northern department without first consulting 
General Gates and Governor Clinton. Schuyler now 
opportunely entered Congress as a del^ate from 
New York, and his presence in that body exerted a 
strong influence toward the preservation of Wash- 
ington's authority and toward improvement in the 
behavior of Congress. 

It was at this point that intimacy between Hamil- 
ton and the Schuyler family really b^an. During 
the winter and spring of 1779-80, when Washing-, 
ton's headquarters were at Morristown, General 
Schuyler took a house there for his family. Mrs- 
Washington and the wives of several officers were 
also living in Morristown, so that an agreeable 
society was formed. Hamilton was brought into 
intimate relations with it as Washington's secretary, 
and his wit, vivacity, and good-breeding inspired 
liking and esteem. 

Schuyler was very intimate with Washington. 
They were men of the same class, nearly of the same 
age, with like habits of thought and standards of 
conduct. Washington warmly sympathized with 
Schuyler and deplored the shabby treatment he had 


experienced from Congress. Schuyler was active 
and influential in his siq)port of Washington. His 
position as one of the New York patropns made it 
impossible for his enemies to divest him of political 
importance. He had his own intelligence depart- 
ment; which included even agents in Canada, and 
all his resources were at Washington's service. His 
presence in Congress in 1780 was of inestimable 
value to Washington, as Schuyler was able to secure 
the appointment of a committee of three, with him- 
self at the head, to effect changes and reforms in the 
army much desired by Washington. 

With. Schuyler himself Hamilton now began an 
intimacy that lasted the rest of his life. Schuyler 
was then forty-seven; Hamilton was twenty-three. 
Schuyler's large experience in public affairs and in- 
timate knowledge of all the personal springs of 
action probably served as a valuable source of in- 
formation to Hamilton. Elizabeth Schuyler was 
with her father at Morristown, and Hamilton was 
soon in love with her. They were both bom in the 
same year, but Hamilton was older by seven months. 
It is an astonishing proof of the force of Hamilton's 
vocation for statesmanship that at the very time he 
was courting his sweetheart he produced the remark- 
able papers described in the preceding chapter. An 
incident of that period preserved by tradition shows 
that Hamilton was not wholly exempt from dis- 
turbance by love's sweet fever. Once after spending 


an evening with Miss Schuyler his thoughts were so 
full of her that on returning to his quarters in camp 
he could not remember the cotmtersign, and was 
held back by the sentinel until a friend arrived who 
could give Hamilton the word. 

Hamilton's passion for Elizabeth Schuyler was 
described by him in a letter to one of her sisters- 
probably Mrs. Angelica Church, written sometime 
during 1780. It is written in the high-flown style 
of the period, that seemed to go naturally in com- 
pany with wigs, satin knee-breeches, lace rufifs^ tow- 
ering coiffure, trailing silk gowns, and stately man- 
ners, but which is much too pretentious for modem 
taste. Availing himself of a commission from Miss 
Schuyler to forward a letter to her sister, Hatnilton 
wrote: "I venture to tell you in confidence, that by 
some odd contrivance or other your sister has found 
out the secret of interesting me in everything that 
concerns her; and though I have not the happiness 
of a personal acquaintance with you, I have had the 
good f ortime to see several very pretty pictures of 
your person and mind which have inspire me with 
a more than common partiality for both." 

He then offers it as proof of the good opinion he 
has formed that he may venture thus to introduce 
himself and even make her his confidant: 

Phlegmatists may say I take too great a license at first 
setting out, and witlings may sneer and wonder how a 
man the least acquainted with the world should show so 


great facility in his confidence — ^to a lady. But the idea 
I have f onned of your character places it in my estima- 
tion above the insipid maxims of the former or the ill- 
natured jibes of the latter. 

I have already confessed the influence yoiu* sister has 
gained over me — ^yet notwithstanding this, I have some 
things of a very serious and heinous nature to lay to her 
charge. — She is most unmercifully handsome and so per- 
verse that she has none of those pretty a£Pectations*which 
are the prerogatives of beauty. Her good sense is desti- 
tute of that happy mixture of vanity and ostentation 
which would make it conspicuous to the whole tribe of 
fools and f oplings as well as to men of understanding so 
that as the matter now stands it is little known beyond 
the circle of these. — She has good nature, affability and 
vivacity unembellished with that charming frivolousness 
which is justly deemed one of the principal accomplish- 
ments of a bdle. In short, she is so strange a creature, 
that she possesses all the beauties, virtues and graces of 
her sex without any of those amiable defects which from 
their general prevalence are esteemed by connoisseurs 
necessary shades in the character of a fine woman. The 
most determined adversaries of Hymen can find in her no 
pretext for their hostility, and there are several of my 
friends, philosophers, who railed at love as a weakness, 
men of the world who laughed at it as a phantasie, whom 
she has presumptuously and daringly compelled to ac- 
knowledge its power and surrender at discretion. I can 
the better assert the truth of. this, as I am myself of the 
number. She has had the address to overset all the wise 
resolutions I had been framing for more than four years 
past, and from a rational sort of being and a professed 
contemner of Cupid has in a trice metamorphosed me 
into the veriest inamorato your perhaps • • • 

1 gel 

■ ref 


Here there is a portion of the manuscript that 
is quite illegible, and, although what follows ia 
plain enough, it is all in the same Grandisonian 
style, of which a sxiffieient sample has been given. 
It was quite the fashion then, and English liter- 
ature affords many models of that sort of thing. 
The Marquis de Chastellux, who visited Washing- 
ton's headquarters in this year, and published 
an account of his American travels, remarked 
upon the frequent toasting of sweethearts and the 
elaborate gallantries at formal dinners. It should 
be noted that Hamilton's employment of this style 
in writing to Mrs. Church had a defensive use. If 
nothing had come of the affair it might have been 
passed off as merely the language of compliment. 
This affected style was dropped forthwith as soon 
as Hamilton was accepted as Miss Schuyler's affi- 
anced, and his letters thereafter are simple, direct, 
sincere, manly, and tender, almost devoid of pei^ 
sonal compliment except that highest sort which is 
implied by the character of the matter. The posi- 
tion now tacitly assigned to her is that of a womMi 
of good sense and inteUigence, whose interest in 
pubUc affairs is as keen as Hamilton's own. Under 
date of September 6, 1780, Hamilton tells her of 
Gates's defeat in South Carolina, and of his flight, 
leaving "his troops to take care of themselves, and 
get out of the scrape as weD as they could." After 
referring to the general dismay occasioned by this 


reverse, Hamilton's smgniiie dfipoehian craps out 
in the remaik: ^Tliis nusfortane affects me less than 
others, becaaae it is not in my temper to repine at 
evUs tiiat are past, bat to endeavor to draw gpod 
out of them, and becanse I think oar safety depends 
on a total change of system, and this change of 
system will only be prodoeed by misfortmie." 

Arnold's treascm occurred daring the period of 
Hamilton's couitshq), and as soon as the news was 
received Hamilton was sent to Yerplanck's Point to 
try to intercq>t Arnold; bat on his arrival he found 
that Arnold, always rapid and energetic in his 
movements, had aheady made good his escape and 
was then safe on board the Vulture, an Engh'sh 
sloop-of-war. Hamilton at once took measures for 
the protection of West Point, taking upon himself 
to issue instructions, concerning which he at once 
wrote to Washington: "I hope yoiu* Excellency will 
approve these steps, as there may be no time to be 
lost." On the same day, September 25, 1780, he 
wrote to Miss Schuyler, giving her an accoimt of 
the affair which overflows with kindness and mag- 
nanimity with respect to Mrs. Arnold. He said: 

I went in pursuit of him but was much too late; and 
could hardly r^ret the disappointment, when, on my 
retiun, I saw an amiable woman, frantic with distress for 
the loss of a husband she tenderly loved; a traitor to his 
country and to his fame; a disgrace to his connections: 
it was the most affecting scene I ever was witness to. • • • 


All the sweetness of beauty^ all the loveliness of inno- 
cence, all the tenderness of a wife, and all the f<Hidness 
of a mother showed themsdves in her appearance and 
conduct . . . This morning she is more composed. I 
paid her a visit, and endeavored to soothe her by every 
method in my power, though you may imagine she is not 
easily to be consoled. 

In his dealings with Major Andr6, the unfortunate 
British oj£cer whose transactions with Arnold 
brought him into the American lines and who was 
hanged as a spy^ Hamilton displayed militaiy se- 
verity coupled with refined and chivalrous personal 
consideration. Writing to Miss Schuyler on October 
2, 1780, he said: 

Poor Andr6 suffers to-day. Everything that is ami- 
able in virtue, in fortitude, in delicate sentiment, pleads 
for him; but hard-hearted policy calls for a sacrifice. He 
must die. — ^I send you my account of Arnold's affair; and 
to justify myself to yom* sentiments, I must inform you 
that I urged a compliance with Andr6's request to be 
shot; and I do not think it would have had an ill effect; 
but some people are only sensible to motives of policy, 
and sometimes from a narrow disposition, mistake it. 
When Andre's tale comes to be told, and present resent- 
ment is over, the refusing him the privilege of choosing 
the manner of his death will be branded with too much 

It was proposed to me to suggest to him the idea of an 
exchange for Arnold; but I knew I should have forfeited 
his esteem by doing it, and therefore declined it. As a 


man of honor, he could but reject it, and I would not for 
the world have proposed to hun a thing which must have 
placed me in the unamiable light of supposing him capa- 
ble of meanness, or of not feeling myself the impropriety 
of the measure. I confess to you I had the weakness to 
value the esteem of a dying man, because I reverenced 
his merit. 

The account of Arnold's affair to which he refers 
was probably the same as that which he sent to his 
friend, Colonel John Laurens, the same month. It 
is written with great literary skill, and the account 
it gives of the execution of Andr6 is deeply affecting 
from the simpKcity and completeness with which it 
nairates the incidents. Hamilton's comments upon 
Andre's personal characteristics and behavior axe 
marked throughout by generosity and high-mind- 

Mingled with these letters between a statesman 
and a gentlewonaan properly interested in public 
affairs by her social station, were, of course, other 
letters in which there was the ardent outpouring of 
a lover's heart. Among the few letters of this other 
type that have been preserved is one that is imdated 
but which from its allusions to events may be safely 
assigned to October, 1780. In it Hamilton wrote: 

I have told you and I told you truly that I love you 
too much. You engross my thoughts too entirely to allow 
me to think of anything else. You not only employ my 


Dund all day, but you intrude on my sleep. I meet you 
in every dream and when I wake I cannot close my eyes 
again for ruminating on your sweetness. 'Tis a pretty 
story indeed that I am to be thus monopolized by a little 
mU broum maid like you, and from a soldier metamorphosed 
into a puny lover, I believe in my soul you are an en- 
chantress; but I have tried in vain, if not to break, at 
least to weaken the charm, and you maintain your em- 
pire in spite of all my efforts, and after every new one I 
make to withdraw myself from my allegiance, my partial 
heart still returns and clings to you with increased attach- 
ment. To drop figures, my lovely girl, you become dearer 
to me every moment. 

From other portions of this letter it appears that 
they were arranging for their marriage. He speaks 
of the difficulties he is having in getting his leave 
from headquarters, owing to the absence of other 
members of Washington's staff, but he declares: "I 
will not be delayed beyond November." He brings 
up the question of dress. "You will laugh at me 
for consulting you about such a trifle, but I want to 
know whether you would prefer my receiving the 
nuptial benediction in my uniform or in a different 
habit. It will be just as you please, so consult your 
whim and what you think most consistent with 

Of courae, like all lovers with power to turn a 
phrase, Hamilton wrote verses to his sweetheart. 
Some experiments in that line are also reported of 
him in his student days, but the little known of 


ihem suggests he was too much the exact thinker to 
soar treeiy in flights of poetic fancy. Naturalfy^ his 
efforts were liked by his sweetheart. She lived to 
be ninety-seven, and when she died, in a tiny bag 
liangiTig ^m her neck were found these verses 
written by Hamilton: 


''Before no niOTtal ever knew 
A love like mine so tender — ^true — 
Completdy wretched — you away 
And but half blessed e'en while you stay. 

•'If present love [illegible] face 
Deay you to my fond embrace 
No joy unmixed my bosom warms 
But when my angel's in my arms." 

The exact date of Bfamilton's marriage has not 
been preserved, but it is supposed to have taken 
place in December, 1780. If so, it must have been 
early in that month. Under date of December 
9 he wrote to General Washington from Albany 
on army business there, and in ending his letter 
remarked: "Mrs. Hamilton presents her respectful 
compliments to Mrs. Washington and yourself. 
After the holidays we shall be at headquarters." 
Remembering Hamilton's declaration that he would 
"not be de ayed beyond November," and consider- 
ing the determination with which he pursued his 


objects, it seems a pennissible conjecture that the 
marriage really took place in the latter part of No- 
vember, and this supposition tallies very well with 
the tenor of the letter of December 9. If the wed- 
ding had just taken place, it seems unlikely that 
Hamilton would already be so occupied with army 
business at Albany as that letter indicates. 

At any rate, it is certain that the wedding was 
celebrated in the Schuyler family mansion at Albany, 
a stately building of yeUow brick, with every- 
thing upon an ample scale. The main hall, entered 
through the handsome colonial doorway, was sixty 
feet long. The drawing-room, in which presumably 
the wedding took place, was spacious and ornate, 
with deep window-seats and broad mantels hand- 
somely carved. General Schuyler had given cordial 
approval to Hamilton's suit, and, although details 
are lacking, there can be no doubt that the wedding 
was a fine affair. It is known that McHeniy, of 
Washington's staff, was at the wedding, for verses 
he wrote on the occasion have been preserved. In 
them the bridegroom figures as "dear Ham," and 
in thus trimming the name to suit the metre the 
versifier made it a rather grotesque companion to 
the classic gods and nymphs he introduced. 

Hamilton's honeymoon was necessarily brief, and 
shortly thereafter he was again at work. His elab- 
orate memorandum upon the estabHshment of a 
nat'ona! bank, sent to Robert Morris, must have 


been drafted within a few months after his mar- 
riage. Devotion to public afifairs was the ruling 
passion of his lif e, but for the rest of his life he now 
had a helpmate the stanchness of whose devotion 
could bear any test, even such as came from folly 
and wickedness in Hamilton himself. Her nature is 
exactly characterized by Robert Louis Stevenson^ 

"Honor, anger, valor, fire; 
A love that life could never tire. 

Death quench or evil stir^ 
The mighty Master 
Gave to her." 



Shortly after his marriage Hamilton had a tiff with 
Washington that was really a small affair in itself, 
but he made so much of it that nothing woiUd satisfy 
him short of leaving Washington's staff. The fol- 
lowing is his own account of it, in a letter of Febru- 
ary 18, 1781, to General Schuyler: 

I am no longer a member of the General's family. This 
information will surprise you, and the manner of the 
change will surprise you more. Two days ago, the Gen- 
eral and I passed each other on the stairs. He told me 
he wanted to speak to me. I answered that I would wait 
upon him immediately. I went below and delivered to 
Mr. Tllghman a letter to be sent to the commissary, con- 
taining an order of a pressing and interesting nature. 

Returning to the General, I was stopped on the way ■ 
by the Marquis de La Fayette, and we conversed together 
about a minute on a matter of business. He can testify 
how impatient I was to get back, and that I left him in a 
manner which, but for our intimacy, would have been 
more than abrupt. Instead of finding the General, as is 
usual, in his room, I met him at the head of the stairs, 
where, accosting me in an angry tone, "Colonel Hamil- 
ton," said he, "you have kept me waiting at the head of 


^^A B] 

^%e stairs these ten minutes. I must tell you, sir, you 
tre&t me with disrespect." I replied, without petulancy, 
but with decision: "I am not conscious of it, sir; but 
since you have thought it necessary to tell me so, we 
part." "Very well, air," said he, "if it be your choice," 
or something to this effect, and we separated. I sin- 
cerely believe my absence, which gave so much umbrage, 
did not last two minutes. 

In less than an hour after, Tilghman came to me In the 
General's name, assuring me of his great confidence in my 
abilities, integrity, usefulness, etc., and of his desire, in a 
candid conversation, to heal a difference which could not 
have happened but in a moment of passion. I requested 
Mr. Tilghman to tell him — 1st. That I had taken my 
resolution in a manner not to be revoked. 2nd. That, as 
a conversation could serve no other purpose than to pro- 
duce explanations, mutually disagreeable, though I cer- 
tainly would not refuse an interview if he desired it, yet 
I would be happy if he would peimlt me todecline it. 3d, 
That, though determined to leave the family, the same 
principles which had kept me so long in it would continue 
to direct my conduct towards him when out of it. 4th. 
That, however, I did not wish to distress him, or the pub- 
lic business, by quitting him before he could derive other 
assistance by the return of some of the gentlemen who 
were absent. 5th. And that, in the meantime, it de- 
pended on him to let our behavior to each other be the 
same as if nothing had happened. He consented to de- 
cline the conversation, and thanked me for my offer of 
continuing my aid in the manner I had mentioned. 

I have given you so particular a detail of our difference 
from the desire I have to justify myself in your opinion. 
Perhaps you may think I was precipitate in rejecting the 
overture made by the General to an accommodation. I 


assure you, my dear sir. It was not the effect of reaent- 
ment; it was the deliberate result of maxims I had long 
formed for the government of my own conduct. 

I always disliked the office of an aide-de-camp as having 
in it a kind of personal dependence. I refused to serve 
in this capacity with two major-generals at an early 
period of the war. Infected, however, with the enthu- 
wasm of the times, an idea of the General's character 
which experience taught me to be unfounded, overcame 
my scruples, and induced me to accept his invitation to 
enter into his family. It was not long before I discovered 
he was neither remarkable for delicacy nor good temper, 
which revived my former aversion to the station in which 
I was acting, and it has been increasing ever since. It has 
been often with great difficulty that I have prevailed 
upon myself not to renounce it; but while, from motives 
of public utility, I was domg violence to my feelings, I 
was always determined, if there should ever happen a 
breach between us, never to consent to an accommoda- 
tion. I was persuaded that when once that nice bar- 
rier, which marked the boundaries of what we owed to 
each other, should be thrown down, it might be propped 
again, but could never be restored. 

I resolved, whenever it should happen, not to be in the 
wrong. I was convinced the concessions the General 
might make would be dictated by his interest, and that 
hb self-love would never forgive me for what it would 
regard as a humiliation. 

I believe you know the place I held in the Gienenil's 
confidence and counsels, which will make it the more ex- 
traordinary to you to leam that for three years past I 
have felt no friendship for him and have professed none. 
The truth is, our dispositions are the opposites of each 
other, and the pride of my temper would not suffer me 


to profess what I did not feel. Indeed, when advances 
of tills kind have been made to me on his part, they were 
received in a manner that showed at least that I had no 
desire to court them, and that I desired to stand rather 
upon a footing of military confidence than of private at- 

Vou are too good a judge of hmnan nature not to be 
sensible how this conduct in me must have operated on a 
man to whom all the world is offering incense. With this 
key you will easily unlock the present mystery. 

At the end of the war I may say many things to you 
concerning which I shall impose upon myself till then an 
inviolable silence. 

The General is a very honest man. His competitors 
have slender abiUties, and less integrity. His popularity 
has often been essential to the safety of America, and is 
still of great importance to it. These considerations have 
influenced my past conduct respecting him, and will in- 
fluence my future. I think it is necessary he should be 

His estimation in your mind, whatever may be its 
amount, I am persuaded has been formed on principles 

^ ■which a circumstance like this cannot materially affect; 
but if I thought it could diminish your friendship for him, 
I should almost forego the motives that urge me to justify 
myself to you. I wish what I have said to make no other 
impression than to satisfy you I have not been in the 
wrong. It is also said in confidence, as a pubhe knowl- 
edge of the breach would, in many ways, have an ill effect. 
It will probably be the policy of both sides to conceal it, 
and cover the separation with some plausible pretext. 
I am importuned by such of my friends as are privy to 
the affair, to listen to a reconciliation; but my resolution 
is unalterable. 


Allowances for the pomposity and conceit of this 
letter should be made on account of the youth of 
the writer and the temper in which it was written. 
He had turned twenty-four only a little over a 
month before; he wrote while still imder the excite- 
ment of the breach, and while in a rage that was 
intensified by the formal restraints put vqpon it. 
And he was writing to a father-in-law of only a few 
months' standing, in whose eyes he naturally de- 
sired to exhibit his behavior in a dignified aspect. 
On his own showing, Washmgton did everything 
possible to expiate an ofifense committed in a mo- 
ment of irritation not unwarranted by the circum- 
stances, A few words of explanation would have 
set the matter right at once. That Hamilton was 
so deeply hurt shows that he had got into the state 
in which a sUght wound festers. The disparaging 
remarks he made about Washington are such as are 
usually consequent upon such a falling out between 
intimates. Nothing is more common on the part 
of clever juniors than such an attitude toward elders 
with whose dignity they are too familiar to be im- 
pressed by it, while they are still too inexperienced 
to appreciate it. 

Hamilton was not mistaken in thinking that it 
would take strong argument to convince General 
Schuyler of the propriety of the step he had taken. 
Hanulton's letter reached the general at night, and 
the next day he made a reply which is a model of 


kindness and tact. He b^an: '^I confess the con- 
tents surprised and aflSicted me — ^not thatl discover 
any impropriety in your conduct in the afifair in 
question, for of that, I persuade myself, you are in- 
capable; but it may be attended with consequences 
prejudicial to my coimtiy, which I love, which I 
affectionately love." 

The letter then goes on to appeal to Hamilton's 
patriotism not to abandon a post in which his ser- 
vices were so important. After putting adroitly and 
forcibly the argument from this standpoint, he con- 
cluded with this touching appeal to Hamilton's good 

It IS evident, my dear sir, that the General conceived 
himself the aggressor, and that he quickly repented of 
the insult. ... It falls to the lot of few men to pass 
through life without one of those unguarded moments 
which wound the feelings of a friend. Let us then impute 
them to the frailties of hiunan nature, and with Sterne's 
recording angel, ^drop a tear, and blot it out of the page 
of life. I do not mean to reprehend the maxims you 
have formed for your conduct. They are laudable, and 
though generally approved, yet times and circumstances 
sometimes render a deviation necessary and justifiable. 
This necessity now exists in the distresses of your country. 
Maike the sacrifice. The greater it is, the more glorious 
to you. Your services are wanted. They are wanted in 
that particular station which you have already filled so 
beneficially to the public, and with such extensive repu- 


If any argument or appeal would have moved 
Hamilton, no more effective approach coidd have 
been made than that which Schuyler used. If there 
had been nothing more in the case than wounded 
pride, Schuyler's efforts would certainly have suc- 
ceeded, but, as Hamilton now felt assured that he 
could serve public interests more effectually in other 
ways, appeals to his patriotism only served to con- 
firm his resolution. Lafayette, whose casual de- 
tention of Hamilton was the immediate cause of 
Washington's annoyance, also exerted himself to 
effect a reconciliation, but he found, to his regret, 
"each disposed to beheve the other was not sorry 
for the separation." 

In resigning his position as aide-de-camp Hamilton 
had no intention of leaving the army. "I cannot 
think of quitting the army during the war," he wrote 
to Schuyler. His first preference was for the artil- 
lery, the branch of the army to which he had for- 
merly belonged, but in returning to it he would 
have gone to the bottom of the list in his rank. As 
he believed that the war was drawing to a close, 
and a command in the infantry would leave him 
time for study during the winter, he decided in favor 
of an infantry position. By virtue of his staff posi- . 
tion he was entitled to a commission as lieutenant- 
colonel, dating from March 1, 1777, and this he now 
obtained, but it did not carry with it any regimental 
connection, and he made formal application to Gen- 


eral Washington for an appointment. The general 
felt somewhat embarrassed by the application, as 
he had had trouble from appointments of the kind 
desired by Hamilton. In bis reply, which bears the 
same date as Hamilton's apphcation, he referred to 
cases in which the giving of commands to outsiders 
had been deeply resented by the officers of the line. 
"To add to the discontent of the officers of those 
lines, by the further appointment of an officer of 
your rank . . . would, I am certain, involve me in 
a difficulty of a very disagreeable and delicate na- 
txu^, and might, perhaps, lead to consequences more 
serious than it is easy to imagine." Washington 
undoubtedly felt keenly his inability to gratify Ham- 
ilton, particularly in view of the recent breach in 
their relations. He concluded his letter with the 
remark: "My principal concern arises from an ap- 
prehension that you will impute my refusal of your 
request to other motives than those I have expressed, 
but I beg you to be assured, I am only influenced by 
the reasons which I have mentioned." 

Hamilton wrote again, urging that his case differed 
from the case of those appointments which had been 
resented as favors to outsiders, as he had entered 
the army in the line, held a regular commission, and 
had simply been detached for staff duty, so that he 
was now only seeking a r^toration to his original 
sphere. In closing he declared : " I assure your Ex- 
cellency, that I am too well persuaded of your can- 


dor, to attribute your refusal to any other cause 
than an apprehension of inconveniences that may 
attend the appointment." 

Nothing came of Hamilton's application until 
July, when he again wrote to Washington, and with 
the letter returned his conunission. Washington 
sent one of his aides. Colonel Tilghman, to induce 
Hamilton to retain his conunission, promising an 
appointment to active command at the first oppor- 
txmity. Events soon assmned such shape that Ham- 
ilton was able to obtain the military employment 
he desired. When the campaign of 1781 opened, it 
had been Washington's intention to lay siege to the 
British position at New York, and military arrange- 
ments to that end went on imtil the middle of 
August. The British commander-in-chief. Sir Henry 
Clinton, planned a counter-stroke by way of the 
Chesapeake Bay, and Lord Comwallis, who was 
then operating in Virginia, was instructed to estab- 
lish a base either at Williamsburg or Yorktown, 
whence by water conveyance he could strike at Bal- 
timore, or Philadelphia, to destroy stores and re- 
sources upon which Washington would be depend- 
ing. The plan was not a bad one, provided control 
of the sea remained in British hands. On August 15 
advices reached Washington that Count de Grasse, 
who commanded the French fleet in the West Indies, 
would sail for the Chesapeake, thus cutting Com- 
wallis's communications and isolating his position. 


Washington promptly decided to take iulvantage of 
the opportunity thus presented; and he made ar- 
rangements for transferring his army to Yorktown, 
and Hamilton was appointed to the conunand of a 
regiment of light infantry which formed part of 
Lafayette's corps. 

Hamilton's letters to his wife at this period are 
full of the great love that accompanies a high sense 
of honor. He wrote: 

A part of the army, my dear girl, is going to Virginia, 
and I must, of necessity, be separated at a much greater 
distance from my beloved wife. I cannot announce the 
fatal necessity, without feeling everything that a fond 
husband can feel. I am imhappy; I am unhappy beyond 
expression. I am imhappy, because I am to be so remote 
from you; because I am to hear from you less frequently 
than I am accustomed to do. I am miserable, because 
I know you will be so; I am wretched at the idea of 
flying so far from you, without a single hour's interview, 
to tell you all my pains and all my love. But I cannot 
ask permission to visit you. It might be thought im- 
proper to leave my corps at such a time and upon such 
an occasion. I must go without seeing you — ^I must go 
without embracing you; alas ! I must go. 

Hamilton's conunand embarked for Yorktown at 
Head of Elk on September 7. On the day before he 

I would give the world to be able to tell you all I feel 
and all I wish, but consult your own heart and you will 


know mine. What a world will soon be between us I To 
support the idea, all my fortitude is insufficient. What 
must be the case with you, who have the most female of 
female hearts ? I sink at the perspective of your distress 
and I look to heaven to be your guardian and supporter. 
Circumstances tliat have just come to my knowledge 
assure me that our operations will be expeditious, as weD 
as our success certain. Early in November, as I prom- 
ised you, we shall certainly meet. Cheer yourself with 
this idea, and with the assurance of never more being 
separated. Every day con6rms me in the intention of 
renouncing public life and devoting myself whoUy to you. 
Let others waste their time and their tranquillity in a 
vain pursuit of honor and glory; be it my object to be 
happy in a quiet retreat with my better angel. 

On October 16 he gave his wife this brief account 
of a gallant military exploit: 

Two nights ago, my EHza, my duty and my honor 
obliged me to take a step in which your happiness was 
too much risked. I commanded an attack upon one of 
the enemy's redoubts; we carried it in an instant and 
with little loss. You will see the particulars in the Phila- 
delphia papers. There will be, certainly, nothing more 
of this kind; all the rest will be by approach; and if there 
should be another occasion, it will not fall to my turn to 
execute it. 

Hamilton thus briefly and modestly dismissed 
what was a brilliant military exploit, the details of 
which illustrate the sensitive quality of his honor 
as well as his dauntless courage. The position occtfr , 


ftied by Cornwallis at Yorktown was most readily 
assailable from the southwest against his left wing, 
to protect which fortifications had been thrown up, 
with redoubts at commanding points. The Ameri- 
can siege was begun by estabhshing a parallel forti- 
fication on which batteries were posted. With the 
French aid, the besiegers had a preponderance of 
gims and in a few days an advance upon the first 
line of the British fortifications was deemed practi- 
cable. In making the arrangements for the assault 
Hamilton was passed over. Accounts of the affair 
differ, that given in J. C. Hamilton's biography of 
his father being to the effect that Washington gave 
the conamand to Colonel Barber from a supposed 
precedence due to his rank and service. General 
Hemy Lee, in his Memoirs, states that Lafayette 
gave the command of the van to his own aide-de- 
camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Gimat. Hamilton pro- 
tested on the ground that the time fixed for the 
assault came within his tour of duty. Lafayette 
excused himself on the ground that the arrange- 
ments had been approved by Washington and were 
no longer open to change. Lee's account proceeds: 

HamiltOD . . . left the marquis, announcing hia deter- 
miDation to appeal to headquarters. This he accordingly 
did, in a spirited and manly letter, Washington, incapable 
of injustice, sent for the marquis, and inquiring into the 
fact, found that the tour of duty belonging to Hamilton 
had been given to Gimat. He instantly directed the mar- 


quis to reinstate Hamilton, who consequently was put 
at the head of the van. 

As Lee took part in the si^ge of Yorktown^ and he 
expressly says that he obtained the particulaxs from 
Hamilton himself, his account should be r^arded 
as the authentic version of the affair. 

It was one of Hamilton's characteristics all through 
life that his interest was in getting things done, not 
in celebrating the doing of them. He always looked 
forward. The only account Hamilton himself left 
of the assault is his official report, which abounds 
with complimentary references to the behavior of 
officers and men, but does not mention his own be- 
havior. The assault took place as soon as it had 
become dark on the evening of October 14, 1781. 
Lee says: "Hamilton, with his own and Gimat's 
corps of light infantry, rushed forward with impet- 
uosity. Pulling up the abatis and knocking down 
the palisades, he forced his way into the redoubt." 
In Leake's biography of General John Lamb, who 
was at the siege of Yorktown, this account is given : 
"La Fayette's forlorn hope was led by Colonel Ham- 
ilton, and the redoubt was carried, with great gal- 
lantry at the point of the bayonet. The palisades 
and abatis were scaled, and Hamilton, placing one 
foot on the shoulder of a soldier who knelt for that 
purpose, sprang upon the parapet, and was the first 
man within the wall. The French attack was also 


micceasful, but the work was not so soon carried, 
and was attended with greater loss, owing to the 
troops being under a heavy fire, until the sappers 
opened a passage; a loss which ours avoided by the 
promptness of the escalade." 

This latter accoimt of Hamilton's leadership is 
the more probable one. It tallies with all the cir- 
cumstances set forth in his official report. Hamil- 
ton was in conomand, and the force was composed of 
his battalion, a battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Gimat, a detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Laurens, and a detachment of sappers and miners 
under Captain Gilleland. The approach was prob- 
ably as stealthy as possible. The attack was made 
at night and Hamilton's report expressly states that 
the troops advanced "with unloaded arms." The 
British line on which Hamilton moved was probably 
carried with a rush, and so small was his stature 
that he could hardly have reached the parapet with- 
_.OUt a lift from a soldier. The rapidity of Hamil- 
fcton's assault explains the slight loss sustained by 
Uiis battalion. No one was killed and only four 
mti the soldiers were wounded. Gimat's battalion, 
P^hich waited untU the sappers breached the abatis, 
experienced severe loss. Gimat himself received 
a musket-ball in his foot and retired from the 
field. Two of his captains were wounded, a sergeant 
was killed and another sergeant wounded. Seven of 
bis rank and file were killed and fifteen were wounded. 


Altogether, nine were killed and thirty-one were 
wounded on the American side; on the British side 
the killed and wounded did not exceed eight. The 
facts indicate that the British were rather taken by 
surprise and that the position was not tenaciously 
held. The truth was that the British were hope- 
lessly entrapped and they knew it. Washington 
moved his batteries up to the captured line and 
the British position then became imtenable. On 
the 19th Comwallis surrendered and the garrison 
marched out as prisoners of war. This event was 
practically the dose of the Revolutionary War, so 
that Hamilton gained his laurels as a field com- 
mander in what turned out to be the decisive action. 
In commenting upon it Washington wrote: "Few 
cases have exhibited greater proofs of intrepidity, 
coolness and fimmess, than were shown on this 



WrnH the close of the Yorktown campaign Hamilton 
felt free to go on with his plans for establishing him- 
self in civil life. He went to Albany, where his wife 
was staying in her father's home, and remained 
there until the birth of his first child, Philip, Janu- 
ary 22, 1782. That event natm-ally sharpened 
Hamilton's desire for a settled occupation in which 
he could provide for his family. Writing to his 
friend, Colonel Meade, of Washington's staff, the 
following March, to congratulate him on the birth 
of a daughter, Hamilton remarked: "I can well con- 
ceive your happiness on that occasion, by that which 
I feel on a similar one. Indeed, the sensations 
of a tender father of the child of a beloved mother, 
can only be conceived by those who have experi- 
enced them." Farther on he tells Meade: "You 
cannot imagine how entirely domestic I am growing. 
I lose all taste for the pursuits of ambition. I sigh 
for nothing but the company of my wife and my 
baby. The ties of duty alone, or imagined duty, 
keep me from renouncing public life altogether. It 
is, however, probable I may not any longer be en- 
gaged in it." 



This letter was written from Philadelphia, whither 
Hamilton had gone to arrange for preserving his 
military rank so long as the war might continue. 
General Washington was in Philadelphia to consult 
with Congress, then sitting in that city. Hamilton's 
views were set forth in two letters to Washington, 
March 1, 1782, one of which was written with a view 
to having it shown to members of Congress so that 
they should understand his position exactly. In it 
he renounced "aH claim to the compensations at- 
tached to my military station during the war or 
afterwards." But he also declared; "I am unwill- 
ing to put it out of my power to renew my exertions 
in the common cause in the line in which I have 
hitherto acted." He therefore desired to retain his 
rank, saying, "I shall be at all times ready to obey 
the call of the public in any capacity, civil or mili- 
taiy (consistent with what I owe to myself), in which 
there may be a prospect of my contributing to the 
final attainment of the object for which I embarked 
in the service." 

Returning to Albany, Hamilton studied hard to 
fit himself for legal practice. He rented a house 
and invited his college chum, Robert Troup, to live 
with him. La less than five months he was ad- 
mitted to the bar. That fact, standing alone, might 
as well imply lax requirement as unusual ability; 
but other circumstances leave no doubt of the sofid , 
preparation he was able to make in so short a time. 


It should be considered that his mind had been ad- 
dressed to law by all his studies. His deficiency was 
in the technique of the profession, and in supplying 
that lack he availed himself of a principle well 
known to every student, which is that no informar 
tion is so fully seized and so tightly held as that 
which is collected and arranged for a special pur- 
pose. With Troup at hand to answer his inquiries 
and direct his research, he composed a manual on 
the practice of law, which, Troup relates, "served aa 
an instructive grammar to future students, and 
became the groundwork of subsequent enlai^ed 
practical treatises." J. C. Hamilton, writing about 
seventy years later, remarked: "There are gentle- 
men now hving who copied this manual as their 
guide, one of which is in existence." It was an 
astonishing feat for him to perform at the age of 
twenty-five, while still a novice, but he was made 
quite capable of it by his extraordinary powers of 
mental application and orderly analysis. 

Hamilton's letters at this time declare strong in- 
tention to keep out of politics and stick to the law. 
His most intimate friends were urgent in counselling 
him to do that very thing, and cease neglecting his 
own interests to engage in pubhc service from which 
he could expect neither reward nor gratitude. Two 
of his former companions on Washington's staff, 
Harrison and Meade, left the axmy about this time, 
feeling that they had no right to be neglecting their 


own interests any longer, and they both pressed the 
8ame view upon Hamilton. In August, 1782, an- 
other army friend, Doctor McHenry, wrote: 

It appears to me, Hamilton, to be no longer necessary 
or a duty, for you and I to go on to sacrifice the small 
remnant of time that is left us. We have already immo- 
lated largely on the altar of liberty. At present, our 
countrj- neither wants our services in the field or the 
cabinet, so it is incumbent upon us to be useful in another 
line. . . . You have a wife and an increasing offspring 
to urge you f(»ward. . . . 

In this letter, which was long, rambling, and gos- 
sipy, McHenry gave this warning anecdote: 

Hamilton, there are two lawyers m this town [Balti- 
more], one of which has served the public in the General 
Assembly for three years with reputation, and to the 
ngglect of his practice. The other has done nothing but 
attend to his profession, by which he has acquired a 
handsome competency. Now the people have taken it 
into their heads to displace the lawyer which has served 
them till he became poor, in order to put in his stead the 
lawyer who has served himself & become rich, . ■ ■ 
What is the moral of all this, my dear friend, but that 
it is high time for you and I to set about in good earnest, 
doing something for ourselves. 

Hamilton's answer to this has not been preserved, 
but he wrote to Lafayette, November 3, 1782: 

I have been employed for the last ten months in rock- 
ing the cradle and studying the art of fleecing my neigh- 


bore. ... I am going to throw away a few months 
more in public life, and then retire a simple citizen and 
good patejfamilias. . , , You see the disposition I am in. 
You are condemned to run the race of ambition all your 
life. I am already tu-ed of the career, aud dare to leave it. 

There can be no doubt that Hamilton was quite 
sincere in what he said. Affectation was not one 
of his faults. But in this letter, as in other revela- 
tions of the state of his mind, distaste for the money- 
grubbing side of legal practice is manifestedj and 
his interest in public affairs was too strong to be 
stifled. Busy as he was in the summer of 1782, he 
could not forbear making his protest against an 
act that he regarded as barbarous, although in a 
way he seemed to be going against General Wash- 
ington himself. A loyalist had been killed by his 
guard while attempting to escape. In retaliation a 
band of loyalists hanged Captain Huddy, of t^e 
American army, captured by them in New Jersey. 
On his body was found the label; "Up goes Huddy. 
for Philip White." Washington convened a council 
of officers, who unanimously decided that either 
Lippincott, the captain of the loyalist band, should 
be executed as a murderer, or else an ofEcer of equal 
rank among the British prisoners should suffer in 
his stead. Washington approved the decision, and 
wrote to Sir Henry Clinton, "to save the innocent, 
I demand the guilty." But Clinton refused to sur- 
render Lippincott, and Washington gave orders that 
one of the British captains should be selected to 


suffer in bis stead. The lot fell on Obtain A^Ol, 
a youth of nineteen. 

Hamilton wrote to General Knox: "As this ap- 
pears to me clearly an ill-timed proceeding, and if 
persisted in will be derogatory to the national char- 
acter, I cannot forbear communicating to you my 
ideas upon the subject. A sacrifice of this sort is 
entirely repugnant to the genius of the age we hve 
in, and is without example in modem history, nor 
can it fail to be considered in Europe as wanton and 
mmecessary. ... So solemn and deliberate a sac- 
rifice of the innocent for the guilty must be con- 
demned on the present received notions of humanity, 
and encourage an opinion that we are in a certain 
degree in a state of barbarism." The letter argues 
the case at length, and makes the strong point that 
the British commander had taken steps to prevent 
any repetition of the Huddy affair, "and, therefore, 
the only justifying motive of retaliation, the pre- 
venting of a repetition of cruelty, ceases." As to 
the point that General Washington could not now 
recede from the position he had taken, he declared: 
"Inconsistency in this case would be better than 
consistency. But pretexts may be foimd and will be 
readily admitted in favor of humanity." 

Washington, from his own feelings, was quite de- 
sirous of finding a pretext, and he delayed proceed- 
ings in that hope. He laid the matter before Con- 
gress, on the ground that "it is a great national con- 


cern, upon which an individual ought not to decide." 
But Congress took no action, refusing to move even 
after Washington had written to Duane, a member 
from New York, begging to be relieved from his 
"cruel situation." Eventually French influence in- 
tervened, and Congress was very susceptible to that, 
since France was the source of its supplies of real 
money. Lady Asgill, the mother of the young oflE- 
cer, wrote such a moving letter that Louis XVI and 
his Queen took an active inter^t in the case, and 
their representations, communicated to Washington, 
were laid by him before Congress, with the result 
that a resolution was passed Erecting that Captain 
Asgill be set at liberty. 

At the time Hamilton intervened in this affair he 
was a federal oflSce-holder, as a temporary employ- 
ment reluctantly accepted at a time when he waa 
busy with his legal studies. Among the improve- 
ments in administration he had recommended while 
still on Washington's staff was the appointment of 
a "Continental Superintendent" in each State to 
attend to federal requisitions. In the autumn of 
1781 Congress created the office, and on May 2, 
1782, Robert Morris appointed Hamilton to it for 
the State of New York, his compensation to be one- 
fourth of one per cent on his collections. As New 
York's quota for the year had been fixed at $373,598, 
a commission amounting to $934 was allowed, but 
the prospect of collections was such that the com- 


mission would scarcely exceed S500. Hamilton at 
first declined the oflBee, observing: "Time is so pre- 
cious to me, that I could not put myaelf in the way 
of interruptions unless for an object of consequence 
to the public or myself." Morris would not be 
refused. He said that the pay would be fixed by 
the quota irrespective of the collections, and while 
this "will not be equal to what your own abilities 
will gain in the profession of law," he particularly 
desired Hamilton's acceptance. But Hamilton still 
had scruples. "As the matter now stands, there 
seems to be little for a Continental receiver to do." 
K he did no more than to receive money handed to 
him his official duty would be dischai^ed. Said 
Hamilton: "There is only one way in which I can 
imagine a prospect of being materially useful; that 
is, in seconding yow application to the State. In 
popular assemblies much may sometimes be brought 
about by personal discussions, by entering into de- 
tails and combating objections as they rise. If 
it should, at any time, be thought advisable by you 
to empower me to act in this capacity, I shall be 
happy to do everything that depends upon me to 
efl'ectuate your views." 

This was just what Morris wanted, and on July 2 
he wrote: "It gives me singular pleasure, to find that 
you yourself have pointed out the principal objects 
of your appointment." He enlarged upon the 
point, urging Hamilton to address "all the abilities 


with which Heaven has blessed you to induce the 
legislature to take proper action." Hamilton re- 
plied that he would do what he could, but that little 
could be accomplished until there was a deep change 
in the whole system of government. "To effect 
this, mountains of prejudice and particular interest 
are to be levelled." 

The series of reports Hamilton now transmitted 
to Morris give an instructive survey of the compli- 
cated defects of the situation. He gave an account 
of the State's financial situation, pointing out how 
it had been weakened by the fact that five out of 
the fourteen counties were still in the hands of the 
enemy. Deprived of foreign trade, internal traffic 
was carried on upon the most disadvantageous 
terms. These untoward circimistances were aggra^ 
vated by mismanagement. He instanced what has 
always been the great bane of American legislation 
when he observed: "The inquiry constantly is what 
will please, not what will benefit the people. In such 
a government there can be nothing but temporary 
expenditure, fickleness and folly." 

Hamilton estimated that early in the war nearly 
one-half the people sided with Great Britain, and 
probably a third still had their secret wishes on 
that side. "The remainder sigh for peace, murmur 
at taxes, clamor at their rulers, change one incapable 
man for another more incapable, and, I fear, if left 
to themselves, would, too many of them, be willing 


to purchase peace at any price." He did not r^ard 
this situation as peculiar to New York. "However 
disagreeable the reflection, I have too much reason 
to believe that the true picture of other States would 
be, in proportion to their circumstances, equally 
unpromising. All my inquiries and all that appears 
induce this opinion." 

No wonder HamOton indorsed this letter as "Pri- 
vale"; it was not published in its entirety until 1885. 
It displays the actual conditions under which the 
movement for national union began. In his letter 
to Duane, September 3, 1780, Hamilton had been 
the first to propose a constitutional convention. 
Now he was able to start the movement. In carry- 
ing out his plans he was greatly aided by the fact 
that General Schuyler was then a member of the 
State Senate. Hamilton's first atep was to address 
a letter to Governor Clinton, notifying him of his 
appointment, stating that it was ' ' a part of his duty, 
to explain to the legislature from time to time, the 
views of the Superintendent of Finance, in pursu- 
ance of the orders of Congress," and asking the 
honor of a conference with a committee of the two 
houses. Clinton laid the matter before the legislar 
ture and conferences were held in which Hamilton 
virtually acted in the capacity of a chancellor of the 
exchequer, explaining and recommending projects of 
taxation. While not able to secure the adoption of 
all his plans, he had considerable success, and inci- 



dentally he laun ched the proje ct of a new constitu- * 
tion. Although^EaT result was not to be attained 
for five years yet, the definite sequence of events 
begins at this time. 

On July 19, 1782, the Senate, on motion of Gen- 
eral Schuyler, resolved itself into a committee of the 
■hole, "to take into consideration the state of the 

nion," and the Assembly at once followed suit. 

le next day an important set of resolutions was 
reported. Tliey declared " that the situation of these 
States is in a peculiar manner critical, and affords 
the strongest reason to apprehend, from a continu- 
ance of the present constitution of the Continental 
government, a subdivision of the public credit, and 
consequences highly dangerous to the safety and in- 
dependence of these States." 

After a series of preambles dealing with particular 
features of the situation, there followed a resolution 
declaring that the desired ends can never be attained 
through the dehberations of the States individually, 
"but that it is essential to the common welfare, that 
there should be as soon as possible a conference of 
the whole on this subject, and that it would be 
advisable for this purpose to propose to Congress to 
recommend, and to each State to adopt, the mea- 
sure of assembling a general convention of the 
States, specially authorized to revise and amend 
the Confederation, reserving a right to the respec- 
tive legislatures to ratify their determinations." 


The resolutions were passed by the Senate and 
were immediately sent to the Assembly, which con- 
curred by unanimous vote on Sunday, July 21. 
The next day the governor was requested to trans- 
mit a copy to Congress and to each of the States. 
These resolutions came from Hamilton's pen. Writ- 
ing to Morris on July 22, Hamilton remarked; "I 
think this a very eligible step, though I doubt of 
the concurrence of the other States; but I am cer- 
tain without it, they will never be brought to co- 
operate in any reasonable or effectual plan." 

Besides adopting Hamilton's resolutions, which, 
however, appeared before it simply as a report from 
one of its own committees, the l^;islatiu^ on the 
next day elected him as a State delegate to the 
Continental Congress, to succeed General Schuyler, 
who withdrew in his favor. Hamilton's indebted- 
ness to Schuyler's influence shows plainly enough in 
these transactions. 

A letter to his intimate friend John Laurens, 
under date of August 15, shows that Hamilton's 
election to Congress turned his thoughts strongly 
again to public activities. After telling Laurens 
that peace negotiations were under way, he con- 

Peace made, my dear friend, a new scale opens. The 
object then will be to make our independence a blessing. 
To do this we must secure our Union on solid foundations 
— a herculean task, — and to effect which, mountains of 


prejudice must be levdled. It requires all the virtue and 
all the abilities 6t the country. Quit your sword, my 
friend; put on the toga. Come to Congress. We know 
each other's sentiments; our views are the same. We 
have fought side by skle to make America free; let us 
hand in hand struggle to make her happy. 

Laurens probably never received this letter, for, 
with the slow carriage of the mails at that time, it 
could hardly have reached him in his South Caro- 
lina camp by August 27, on which day he was killed. 
He was ill in bed when word came of the approach 
of a party of the enemy, and he arose at once to 
direct his troops. The affair turned out to be a 
mere skirmish, but in it Laurens was mortally 
wounded. Hamflton felt the loss deeply. Writing 
to Lafayette, he said: "You know how truty I loved 
him, and will judge how much I r^ret him.'' Writ- 
ing to General Greene, he said: "The world will feel 
the loss of a man who has left few like him behind.'' 
It was, indeed, an abrupt ending of a career of brO- 
liant promise. Bom in the same year as Hamilton, 
John Laurens became one of Washington's aides at 
the outbreak of Hie Revolution. He performed a 
service of inestimable value as a conunissioner to 
France in 1781, when his polished manners and 
engaging personality greatly facilitated the arrange- 
ments by which France contributed money and sup- 
plies for the'Yorktown campaign. His death was 
r^arded by Hamflton aa a great loss to the move- 


ment for a national union, which soon b^an to 
take shi^e, and which was mainty carried on by 
the younger set among the American leadens, in 
which Laurens had been a distinguished figure. 



When Hamilton entered Congress in November, 
1782, the federal govermnent was in the last stage 
of decrepitude. So long as its issues of paper money 
would circulate. Congress lived high and spent pro- 
fusely. The amount issued in 1775 was $6,000,000; 
in 1776, $19,000,000; in 1777, $13,000,000; in 1778, 
$63,000,000; in 1779, $140,000,000. Toward the end 
of 1779 Congress tried to support the credit of its 
emissions by an address pledging faithful redemp- 
tion of them, declaring that ^'a bankrupt, faithless 
republic would be a novelty in the political world, 
and appear among respectable nations like a com- 
mon prostitute among chaste and respectable ma- 
trons." The clique of lawyer-politicians that then 
ran Congress could always produce fine language, 
but they could eat their words with equal profes- 
sional facility. In little more than three months 
later they enacted a sweeping measure of repudia- 
tion, by a complicated scheme which accomplished 
that result while avoiding the proper name for it. 
By the act of March 18, 1780, forty dollars in Con- 
tinental currency were rated as equivalent to only 
one dollar in coin, in pajonents made by the States 



to the general government. Bills thus turned in 
were to be destroyed, but a new issue was author- 
ized, to be redeemed in specie within six years, 
meanwhile bearing interest at five per cent. These 
bills were to be issued by the States with the guar- 
antee of the United States, and each State was to 
retain six-tenths of the issue signed by it, the remain- 
der to be at the disposition of the United States, 
credited to the States respectively on their assessed 
quotas. The act provided that the States should 
establish sinking-funds, and apparently all that 
legal ingenuity could do was done to make the 
people think the new bills had real value, although 
the old had none. 

In effect, the scheme was a substitution of the 
credit of the States for the lost credit of the United 
States. The States could levy taxes and hence had 
the means of meeting their obligations; the United 
States could not levy taxes and was dependent upon 
loans or upon assessments, to which the States could 
respond as they pleased. The act of 1780 was too 
dependent upon State co-operation to provide much 
revenue, and what bills were issued under its pro- 
visions soon began to sink in value. In the spring 
of 1781 State notes were oflScially rated as 3 to 1 in 
specie and Continental notes at 175 to 1. Conti- 
nental notes were actually rated at 525 to 1 before 
they went out of circulation altogether. In May, 
1781, men marched through the streets of Philadel- 


phia with cockades in their hats made of twists of 
paper money, and a dog, led in the procession, was 
tarred and plastered over with paper money. 

The Yorktown campaign was made possible by 
the creation of the treasury department, managed 
by Robert Morris, and by the money and supplies 
which France then became willing to send. But 
Congress had been very reluctant to let go its own 
custody of the treasury and yielded only because 
there was no longer any way of getting money 
through its own devices. While willing to let Mor- 
ris borrow money wherever he could get it, the mem- 
bers could not be depended on to support any 
scheme of taxation. He took office with the e.\pec- 
tation that the States would allow Congress to levy 
five per cent upon imports. Virginia at once as- 
sented, but later rescinded its action, and accord- 
ing to a statement in one of Madison's letters this 
change of attitude was due to influence exerted by 
Arthur Lee, a member of Congress. Massachusetts 
and Rhode Island remonstrated against the impost. 
In general, the attitude of New England was strongly 
against any taxing authority other than that of each 
State in its own area. Samuel Adams was opposed 
to the very existence of a national treasury depart- 
ment and made gloomy prognostications as to its 
effect on the liberties of the people. 

This, then, was the national situation when Ham- 
f/ilton entered Congress; an empty trcasuiy, no tax- 


t'-'tiiig power, no credit, no resources save those ob- 
tained by borrowing or begging. Although the 
theory of the existing union was that the cost of the 
general government would be met by assessments 
upon the States, each State might judge for itself 
of the fairness of its quota and act accordingly. 
The best record for 17S2 was made by Rhode Island, 
which paid about one-fourth of its quota; Pennsyl- 
vania came next, with over a fifth paid; next, Mas- 
sachusetts, with about an eighth; then Virginia, 
about a twelfth, with the excuse of war ravages for 
delinquency; New York and Maryland, each about 
a twentieth; New Hampshire, about a one hundred 
and twenty-first part; North Carolina, Delaware, 
and Georgia nothing at all. South Carolina was 
the only State credited with full payment of its 
quota, and that was because it was credited with 
supplies to the troops serving there. 

Congressional financiering gave great opportunity 
to rogues. The Pennsylvania Packet of April 17, 
1779, published a letter from a young lady stating 
that her trustee had taken advantage of the legal- 
tender acts to pay her the principal of her inheri- 
tance in depreciated currency. Transactions of that 
character were going on all the time. Merchants 
and farmers could protect themselves to some extent 
by refusing to make sales except for goods of real 
value. The troops were, however, helpless victims. 
A memorial of Virginia officers in November, 1781, 


stated that the depreciation of the currency in 
which they were paid was such that the actual value 
of what they received was then $3J^ a month for a 
colonel, $1.66 for a captain, and 20 cents for a pri- 
vate. In the same month Robert Morris wrote 
that the govenmient was no longer able to buy 
anything with its paper money.' 

Upon this scene of distress, confusion, and dis- 
order, Hamilton entered alert, energetic, clear- 
sighted, and resourceful. The correspondence of the 
public men of the period shows that the general 
attitude of mind was that of grim endurance, in the 
hope that Great Britain would tire of the struggle, 
and then the different States might again manage 
their own affairs as before the war. The sorry 
plight of the general government was therefore a 
naatter of only temporary concern, and meanwhile 
it would not be a matter of vital importance, if 
France should continue her aid. Early in his con- 
gressional term Hamilton wrote a long letter to the 
Vicomte de Noailles, who had returned to France, 
giving him an accoimt of the military and political 
situation, in which he admitted that "the capital 
successes we have had, have served rather to in- 
crease the hopes than the exertions of the particular 
States." Things were "in a mending way" through 

> The moat complete account of the financia,! dtimtion during the 
ConfederalJon period is contained in W. G. Sumner'a The Financier 
and the Finaneea of the American Bevoliition. 



Robert Morris's banking arrangements, "but upon 
the whole, however, if the war continues another 
year, it will be necessary that Congress should again 
recur to the generosity of France for pecuniar}' 

Hamilton sent a letter of like tenor, but more 
fanuliar in style, to Lafayette, who also was then 
back in France. Said Hamilton: "These States are 
in no humor for continuing exertions; if the war 
lasts it must be carried on by external succors. I 
make no apology for the inertness of this country. 
I detest it, but since it exists I am sony to see 
other resources diminish." This was an allusion to 
the withdrawal of the French troops. 

While doing what he could to -nduce France to 
continue its aid, Hamilton was well aware that this 
was asking that country to tax its people for the 
support of a country that was unwilling to tax its 
own people for its own support. Morris was trying 
hard to carry the five per cent impost. It was his 
belief that its prospects hinged on the consent of 
Rhode Island, which in the days before railroads 
occupied a position of pecuhar advantage with 
respect to New England commerce. Under date of 
November 30, 1782, the Speaker of the Rhode 
Island Assembly wrote to Congress stating the rea- 
sons of that State for refusing. They were to the 
effect that the impost scheme would allow Congress 
to introduce officers into the State, unknown to and 


unaccountable to the State^ and would pennit Con- 
gress to collect money from the conun^x^ of the 
State^ for the e3q)enditure of which Congress would 
not be accountable to the State. The aigument 
put Congress in the same position formerly assigned 
to the British Parliam^it^ as a body making uncon- 
stitutional pretensions. 

The answer of Congress to these objections was 
written by Hamilton. It pointed out that the posi- 
tion taken by Rhode Island ''would defeat all the 
provisions of the Confederation, all the purposes of 
the Union. The truth is that no Federal Constitu- \ 
tion can exist without powers that, in their exercise, 
affect the internal police of the component mem- 
bers." The reply .went on to show how impossible 
it would be to obtain foreign loans unless Congress 
was in a position to offer security. "We must 
pledge an Pertained fund; simple Ld pn)ductive 
in its nature, general in its principle, and at the dis- 
posal of a single will. There can be little confidence 
in a security under the constant revisal of thirteen 
different deliberations. It must, once for all, be 
defined and established on the faith of the States 
solemnly pledged to each other, and not revocable 
by any without a breach of the general compact." 

All this is an assertion of national authority 
against a claim of State sovereignty. But Hamilton 
was not content with merely making the point. He 
proceeded to emphasize it. Rhode Island contended 




^H that it was necessary for each State to keep all col- 

^H lection of revenue within its own borders in its own 

^H hands, to protect itself against the possibility of 

^H exorbitant demands by Congress. Hamilton made 

^H the square reply that this was a point on which the 

^B States "have no constitutional hberty to judge. 

^H Such a refusal would be an exertion of power; not of 

^H right." He went on to show that the very idea of 

^B a general government implied that the security of 

^B the public was through representation in Congress, 

^M and not through the interposition of State authority. 

^K After this sharp assertion of principle, the document 

^m made an appeal to interest by pointing out the 

^M immediate benefits that would accrue from the 

^B measiu^. 

^M Although Hamilton was able to present a case 

^F that was logically complete it was practically defec- 

tive, as he was keenly aware. Congress could say 
ought, but could not say must. It could exert influ- 
ence, but it could not wield power; and, as Washing- 
ton pithily observed, "influence m not government." 
What influence Congress had possessed had declined 
because of its record of waste, extravagance, and 
mismanagement; and, moreover, it was impaired by 
the fact that the members themselves were apt to 
regard Congress as a diplomatic assembly in which 
they looked after the particular interests of their 
own States, rather than as a national legislature. 
This tendency was prominently displayed by an in- 



cident in connection with the Rhode Island negotiar 
tion. A Boston newspaper published a statement 
— ^promptly copied by Rhode Island papers — that 
there was no longer any need for an impost since a 
foreign loan had been arranged. This was true to 
the extent that a loan was being negotiated in Hol- 
land, but it was quite untrue that it waa enough to 
enable Congress to meet its engagements. It was 
rumored that a member of Congress was the source 
of this report and an investigation was voted, where- 
upon David Howell declared himself to be the 
author. He was a Princeton graduate, serving his 
first term in Congress, of which he was a member 
from 1782 to 1785. In 1790 he became professor of 
law in Brown University. When a man of his 
standing could pursue such a course, it shows how 
strong particularist tendencies were at that period. 
In fact, Hamilton's assertion of national ideals met 
with Uttle genuine support in Congress. In debate, 
about this time, Hamilton observed that one reason 
why the government should have its own revenue 
collected by its own agents was that "as the energy 
of the federal government was evidently short of the 
degree necessary for pervading and uniting the 
States, it was expedient to introduce the influence of 
officers deriving their emoluments from, and, con- 
sequently, interested in supporting, the power of 
Congress." Madison relates that the members 
"smiled at the disclosure." Madison's record is, 


then, evidence that, at a time when Congress was in- 
clined to acquiesce in conditions of dependence on 
State aid, Hamilton grasped the problem in its en- 
tirety as being the creation of national authority, 
and he insisted upon honest statement of it. His 
reference to the mode of collection was no slip of 
the tongue. A Uttle Iat«r, February 12, 1783, he 
moved the following, in which the marks of emphasis 
are his own: 

Resolved, That it 13 the opinion of Congress that com- 
plete JUSTICE cannot be done to the creditors of the 
United States, nor the restoration of PUBLIC CREDIT 
be effected, nor the future exigencies of the war provided 
for, but by the establishment of permanent and adequate 
funds to operate generally throughout the United States, 
to be collected by Congress, 

John Rutledge, of South Carohna, with a view to 
softening the opposition, moved that the impost 
should be applied only to the support of the army. 
Hamilton at once dissented. He "would never 
assent to such a partial administration of justice," 
and, moreover, "it was impohtic to divide the in- 
terests of the civil and military creditors, whose 
joint efforts in the states would be necKsary to pre- 
vail on them to adopt a general revenue." It 
plainly appears from this that Hamilton had firmly 
grasped the principle that the true constitution of a 
countiy is the actual distribution of poUtical force, 


ind to understand his statesmanship this should be 
|cept in mind. 

Washington's attitude was of such central impor- 
ftance that his correspondence at this period reflects 
all the political ciurents of the times. The moat 
impetuous was that issuing from the army, where 
Ithe feelii^ was strong that unless they looked out 
■For themselves the politicians would bilk them. In 
rcommunications received by Washington there was 
much in the way of deploring and trusting and hop- 
ing, but nothing that exhibits plao or direction until 
Hamilton entered, which was not until February 7, 
1783. The rupture that had occurred when Hanail- 
ton resigned his military secretarj-ship had mean- 
while stopped their intimacy. But Hamilton could 
not proceed with his plans without Washington's 
co-operation, and this he now endeavored to secure. 
"Flattering myself," he wrote, "that your knowl- 
edge of me will induce you to receive the observa- 
tions I make as dictated by a regard to the public 
good, I take the liberty to suggest to you my ideas 
on some matters of delicacy and importance." After 
this deferential approach, he made a plain state- 
ment of the actual situation, showing that "there 
has scarcely been a period of the Revolution which 
called more for wisdom and decision in Congress. 
Unfortunately for us, we are a body not governed 
by reason or foresight but by circumstances." He 
pointed out that the attitude of the army was a 



prime factor in the situation. "The claims of the 
army, urged with moderation but with firmness, 
may operate on those weak minds which are influ- 
enced by their apprehensions more than by their 
judgments. . . . But the difficulty will be to keep 
a complaining and suffering army within the bounds 
of moderation." Hamilton then gave Washington 
some advice as to his own behavior. "It is of mo- 
ment to the pubhc tranquillity that your Excellency 
should preserve the confidence of the army, without 
losing that of the people. This will enable you in 
case of extremity to guide the torrent, and to bring 
order, perhaps even good, out of confusion." He 
suggested that it would "be advisable not to dis- 
countenance their endeavors to procure redress, but 
rather, by the intervention of confidential and pru- 
-dent persons, to take the direction of them." Wash- 
ington's attention was then eaJled to the fact that 
there was an idea in the army that he was not 
"espousing its interests with sufficient warmth." 

The phrase which Hamilton emphasized is the 
point to which the letter is addressed. It was a 
tactful instruction to Washington from one much 
his junior. Washington was then but a fortnight 
short of fifty-one, and he was already world-famous; 
Hamilton had just turned twenty-six, and he was 
barely started in his profession as a lawyer. Wash- 
ington, than whom no man known to history had 
more magnanimity, not merely took Hamilton's 


suggestions in good part but at once entered into 

k confidential relations. He laid aside the cautious 
reserve which characterizes his replies to all other 
correspondents, and opened his heart to Hamilton 
about his troubles. He remarked: "The predica- 
ment, in which I stand as a citizen and as a soldier, 
is as critical and delicate as can well be conceived." 
He declared that for several months his behavior 
had been in accord with the su^estions now made 
by Hamilton, and he had not much fear now that 
army sentiment would exceed "the bounds of reason 
and moderation." 

As a matter of fact, it required all the influence 
that Washington could exert to prevent an outbreak, 
but enough money was scraped up by Morris to give 
the troops a payment on account, sufficient to induce 
them to accept the proposed furlough, as it was 
called, although it was really a disbandment. Keep- 
ing in close and frequent correspondence with Wash- 
ington, Hamilton took a leading part in all these 
proceedings. He was chairman of the committee 
of three appointed by Congress to deal with the 
situation created by the mutiny of certain troops 
at Philadelphia and at Lancaster, and he was prompt 
and vigorous in his measures. He wrote a Vindicor 
tion of Congress, in which he pointed out that the 
system was more at fault than those who labored 
under it. "On the one hand they are blamed for 
not doing what they have no means of doing; on 



the other, their attempts are branded with the im- 
putation of a spirit of encroachment and a luat of 
power." He urged that "in these circumstances, it 
is the duty of all those who have the welfare of the 
commimity at heart to unite their efforts to direct 
the attention of the people to the true soiuce of the 
public disorders — the want of an efficient gezojral 


This was Hamilton's main object during his con- 
gressional caxeer, but when it became manifest that 
nothing more could then be done in that direction 
his longing to be with his family became irrepressi- 
ble. Under date of July 22, 1783, he wrote to his 
wife that he would soon start for home. 

I am strongly urged to stay a few days for the ratifica- 
tion of the treaty; at all events, however, I will not be 
long absent. I give you joy of the happy conclusion of 
this important work in which your country has been 
engaged. Now in a very short time we shall be happily 
settled in New York. . . . Kiss my boy a thousand times. 

After he got back to Albany he gathered up some 
loose ends of his congressional work. In one of his 
letters to Washington, in the spring of 1783, Hamil- 
ton had observed: 

It now only remains to make solid establishments 
within, to perpetuate our Union, to prevent our being a 
ball in the hands of European powers, bandied against 
each other at their pleasure; in fine, to make our indepen- 


dence truly a blessing. ... I will add that your excel- 
lency's exertions are as essential to accomplish this end 
as they have been to establish independence. I will upon 
a future occasion open myself upon this subject. 

Writing from Albany, September 30, he recalled 
this promise, and went on to explain: 

At the time I was in hopes Congress might have been 
induced to take a decisive ground; to inform their con- 
stituents of the imperfections of the present system, and 
of the impossibility of conducting the public affairs with 
honor to themselves and advantage to the conmiunity, 
with powers so disproportionate to their responsibility; 
and having done this, in a full and forcible manner, to 
Adjoimi the moment the definitive treaty was ratified. In 
retiring at the same juncture, I wished you, in a solenui 
manner, to declare to the people your intended retreat 
from public concerns, your opinion of the present govern- 
ment, and of the absolute necessity of a change. 

Before I left Congress I despaired of the first, and your 
cireular letter to the States had anticipated the last. I 
trust it will not he without effect, though I am persuaded 
it would have had more, combined with what I have men- 
tioned. At all events, without compliment, Sir, it will 
do you honor with the sensible and well-meaning; and 
ultimately, it is to be hoped, with the people at large, 
when the present epidemic frenzy has subsided. 

B Tl 

This letter makes an interesting disclosure of the 
ih of Hamilton's political strategy and also of 
its wariness. The resolutions he prepared for Con- 
gress were found among his papers, indorsed, "In- 


tended to be submitted to Congress in seventeen 
hundred and eighty-three^ but abandoned for want 
of support/' The document is a complete analysis 
of the defects of government^ digested under twelve 
headS; concluding with a call for a constitutional 
convention. But Hamilton correctly judged that 
the time was not propitious for the national move- 
ment; and that it would be necessary to delay mat- 
ters until the teachings of experience had began to 
produce efifect. Meanwhile he made a gallant fight 
against the spread of the ''epidemic frenzy" in the 
politics of his own State. 



It can scarcely be called to mind too frequently that 
whfle Hamilton was lavishly spending his powers for 
the public good; he was a poor man with the bread- 
and-butter problem always before him. In May, 
1783, he wrote to Governor Clinton that it would be 
very injurious to him to remain in Congress much 
longer, and that, "having no future views in public 
life, I owe it to myself without delay to enter upon 
the caxe of my private concerns in earnest." 

New York was evacuated by the British in No- 
vember, 1783, and soon after Hamilton settled there 
to practise his profession, opening his office at No. 
58 Wall Street. Claims arising out of transactions 
during the war produced a great crop of cases. In 
those days there was no specialization and Hamilton 
took both civil and criminal cases, so that at one 
time he might be in the mayor^s court and again in 
the highest court in the State. He was at one time 
counsel for the defendant in a rape case, and he also 
figured in assault and murder cases. The rapidity 
with which he gained distinction at the bar is attested 
by the fact that so early as 1784 he began to receive 
applications for admission of law students to his 



office. Such students paid a fee of $150, and were 
rated as clerks. Hamilton's office books note in his 
own handwriting that one such fee was returned be- 
cause the pupil "did not continue his clerkship." 
That of itself did not require a refund, but Hamilton 
always displayed a generous consideration for peo- 
ple's eirciunstanees. In 1796, when he was at the 
height of his professional renown, a client offered 
him $1,000 as a general retainer, without any case 
then pending. The letter bears Hamilton's indorse- 
ment, " Returned as being more than is proper." 

It appears from his office records that for many 
years his office fee was only £l 10s., and that waa 
his usual charge for drawing a petition or giving 
l^al advice in an ordinary case. He charged £5 a 
day for trying a case in court. It appears that he 
was not above taking a contingent fee, for the receipt 
of $100 is noted with the remark, "if successful an 
additional hundred." Although he was associated 
in many cases with his friend, Robert Troup, Hamil- 
ton took as his law partner Balthazar De Heart, a 
circumstance readily accounted for by the fact that 
De Heart appears to have been what is now known 
as a managing clerk. The arrangement really 
meant that Hamilton desired individual freedom of 
action as a lawyer. - 

Among Hamilton's early cases is one that is de- 
servedly famous, both from the massiveness and 
solidity of his argument in support of national 




thority, and also as displaying his dauntless cour- 
age in confronting a furious popular opposition. 
By the treaty of peace with England it was pro- 
vided that there should be no more confiscations or 
prosecutions on account of the side taken in the 
war, and that no person should thereby "suffer any 
future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, 
or property." Among the vindictive measures 
passed by the New York Whigs against the loyalists 
was the act of March 17, 1783, providing that loy- 
alists who had occupied Whig property by British 
authority, might be sued for trespass and held liable 
for arrears of rent. This was dead against the 
treaty stipulations and was known to be so when 
enacted. The effect of the treaty in restricting 
State action was pointed out by the American com- 
missioners, in transmitting a copy from Paris, De- 
cember 14, 1782, and they had distinctly asserted 
that in their opinion Congress was supreme in this 
matter. It fell to Hamilton to be the first to main- 
ly this principle in practice and secure for it ju- 
dicial sanction. 

Although the issue involved the whole question 
of national sovereignty, the particular case in which 
it was raised was as disadvantageous as could be for 
the purpose of securing a thoughtful and just deci- 
sion — the plaintiff a widow, the defendant a firm of 
brewers who had carried on their business as British 
In 1778 they had rented a breweiy and 


malt house on Maiden Lane^ at a rent of £150 per 
annum, which they paid to a person designated by 
the British commander. They had to make con- 
siderable outlay in fitting the property for use, and 
were still carrying on the business when in Novem- 
ber, 1783, the city again passed imder American 
control. They were quite ready to pay the rent to 
any person who could l^aJly receipt for it, and at 
once complied with an order from the American 
commander to pay current dues to the son of Mrs. 
Elizabeth Rutgers, the former owner, who had now 
returned to claim her property. But she wanted 
the back rent also, which they had already paid 
elsewhere by British authority, and she entered suit 
under the trespass act. 

The issue, although deep, was narrow. It was 
simply whether a treaty obligation contracted by 
federal authority could override the laws of the 
State of New York. The widow had State law and 
popular sentiment on her side. There were then no 
federal courts, and, indeed no federal government 
except the weak and ailing one carried on by the 
Continental Congress. The suit was brought before 
a local tribimal, the mayor^s court. And yet such 
was the force of Hamilton's reasoning that he con- 
vinced the court and obtained a judgment in his 
favor. Such ability in a man of twenty-seven, who 
had been practising law less than two years, seems 


almost supernatural; and^ indeed; it does not be- 
come intelligible imtil the circun^istances are atten- 
tively considered. 

The only record that remains of Hamilton's argu- 
ment is the skeleton he used, covering nineteen 
pages of closely written foolscap. Notwithstanding 
its length, it contains merely bare notes of the 
points he intended to make, such as 

A. Introduction. 

Question concerns National faith — char- 
acter — ^safety — Confederation. 

B. Serious because wrong judgment good cause of 


C. Present case somewhat new — law of reason Pub' 

lie good — ubi lex tacet judex loquitur. 
Z). Question embraces the whole law of nations. 

and so on through the letters of the alphabet imtil 
with T he finished his analysis. But all this was 
introductory. Then followed a series of proposi- 
tions, such as 

Judges of each State must of necessity be judges of 

the United States. 
And the law of each State must adopt the laws of 

Though in relation to its own Citizens local laws 

might govern, yet in relation to foreigners those 

of United States must prevail. 


Under the subhead "Principles'' he enters into an 
extended examination of the law of nations. An- 
other section is devoted to "Rules of Construction 
of Statutes." Evidently he prepared his ai^gument 
with the utmost thoroughness and care^ so as to 
ej^lore the whole field of law touched by the case. 
It now seems odd that the mayor's coiut should 
have been the forum for such an alignment; but not 
so in those times. The mayor, recorder, sheriff, 
coroner, and town clerk were all at that time ap- 
pointed by the governor of the State. James 
Duane, who was appointed mayor, February 7, 
1784, was a man of wealth and high social position. 
During the war he had had terms of service in the 
New York Provincial Congress, in the Continental 
Congress, and in the State Senate. Eventually, 
imder Washington's administration, he became the 
first United States judge of the district of New York. 
The recorder, the chidf judicial officer, was Richard 
Varick, who had been Washington's private secre- 
tary during the latter part of the war. It therefore 
appears that the mayor's court was then so officered 
that any question of public obligation cotdd coimt 
upon appreciative consideration. The case turned 
on the question whether or not the authority imder 
which the defendants had acted could be pleaded 
against the claim. By the law of the State that 
plea was inadmissible. The real point which the 
court had to decide was whether the treaty over- 

lied the State inhibition, and its judgment went 
straight to that point. The court declared: 

Our Union, as has been properly observed, is known, 
and legalized in our Constitution, and adopted as a fun- 
damental law in the first act of our legislature. The fed- 
eral compact hath vested Congress with full and exclusive 
powers to make peace and war. This treaty they have 
made and ratified, and rendered its obligation perpetual; 
and we are clearly of opinion, that no State in this union 
can alter or abridge, in a single point, the federal articles 
or the treaty. 

Such a decision at such a time was a brave act. 
Local sentiment was strongly in favor of proscribing 
all who had been on the Toiy side during the war. 
General Lamb and others who had been active 
"Sons of Liberty," the organization to which Ham- 
ilton had attached himself while a college student, 
were now determined to push Whig triumph to the 
uttermost, despite the treaty. A mass meeting was 
held at which an address was adopted exhorting the 
people "to elect men who would spurn any proposi- 
tion that had a tendency to curtail the pri\Tlege8 of 
the people, and who would protect them from judi- 
cial tyranny." In fact, in the first election after the 
peace the party of vengeance swept the polls. Gen- 
eral Lamb and other active partisans were elected 
members of the Assembly, in which their influence 
was so supreme that resolutions were passed calling 
upon the Governor and Council "to appoint such 


persons as will govern themselves by the known law 
of the land/' The Assembly by a vote of 32 to 9 
passed a bill declaring a ^'certain description of per- 
sons without the protection of the laws of this 
State''; and the Senate^ without material amend- 
ment; passed it by a vote of 10 to 6. A like wave 
of rancor swept other States. In Viiginia the House 
of Del^ates declared that any return of confiscated 
property was wholly inadmissible, and that "laws 
made by any independent State of this Union" 
should not be "subject to the adjudication of any 
power or powers on earth." In New Jersey meetings 
were held urging non-compliance with the treaty of 
peace. In Massachusetts a conmiittee of the l^is- 
lature, of which Samuel Adams was chairman, re- 
ported that no person who had borne arms against 
the United States, or lent money to the enemy to 
carry on the war, should ever be permitted to return 
to the State. A spirit of proscription, resembling 
in its malignity that which characterized a victorious 
faction in the civil wars of Greece and Rome, was 
abroad in America. 

Hamilton's action in pleading treaty obligations 
in behalf of clients, against State law, might have 
secured some indulgence as a performance of pro- 
fessional duty, although even then it was a hazard- 
ous proceeding in the existing state of sentiment. 
Later on, after he had led the way, lawyers generally 
employed that argument, among them Giles of 


Virginia, who eventually became Hamilton's most 
active congressional foe. But Hamilton not only 
stemmed the tide at its flood, but he carried the 
issue from the court into the public forum. While 
the legislature was passing disfranchisement acts 
and prescribing test oaths, Hamilton wrote an ap- 
peal "to the Considerate Citizens of New York, on 
the PoKtics of the Times, in Consequence of the 
Peace.'' This letter, signed ''Phocion," is more im- 
passioned in its style than was usual with him, and 
was done in a rush, for he concluded with an apol- 
ogy for "the hasty and incorrect manner." The 
letter was a sharp rebuke to the violent counsels 
then prevailing, with some pointed advice that it 
was a nodstake to think that spite and malevolence 
could now have their way without risk. " Suppose," 
he asked, " Great Britain should be induced to refuse 
a further compliance *with the treaty, in consequence 
of a breach of it on our part; what situation should 
we be in ? Can we renew the war to compel a com- 
pliance ? We know and all the world knows, it is 
out of our power." Nor could other powers be ex- 
pected to come to America's aid as before. "They 
will not think themselves bound to imdertake an 
unjust war, to regain to us rights which we have 
forfeited by a childish levity, and a wanton con- 
tempt of pubUc faith. We should then have sacri- 
ficed important interests to the little, vindictive, 
selfish, mean passions of a few." 


Most of the leading men in the War of the Revo- 
lution felt about the matter just as Hamilton did; 
but he was the only man who dared to come out and 
say so. The peculiar heroism of his statesmanship 
is his utter fearlessness of impopularity. Public men 
are apt to shrink from that^ and face it only when 
brought to bay; but Hamilton seems never to have 
hesitated to brave it whenever a political issue ap- 
peared to him to involve the honor of his country. 
That is not a trait by which American politicians 
get ahead; and it worked against Hamilton's per- 
sonal success in public life. His achievements were 
all accomplished by sheer force of intellect; his career 
owed nothing to poptdar favor. 

Hamilton's letter attracted so much attention 
that the party of proscription felt that some justificar 
tion of their pohcy was desirable; and this was sup- 
plied by Isaac Ledyard, a State politician of some 
prominence, writing over the signatm* of "Mentor." 
His letter adopted a judicial tone, and by applying 
rigorous stricLnstmction principles to the kS 
guage of the treaty; concluded that it was still within 
the power of the States to exclude such as would be 
undesirable citizens. Hamilton's reply is a more 
solid performance than his first letter. He made a 
detailed analysis of the subject; and he entered into 
an inquiry into the nature of constitutional author- 
ity aad the true principles of government. In con- 
clusion; he made a powerful appeal to patriotic feel- 


Fing. "Those who are at present entrusted with 
power, in a]I these infant republics, hold the most 
sacred deposit that ever was confided to human 
hands. 'Tis with governments as with individuals; 
first impressions and early habits give a lasting bias 
to the temper and character. Our governments, 
hitherto, have no habits. How important to the 
happiness, not of America alone, but of mankindj 
that they should acquire good ones ! " He referred 
to the influence which America would exert upon 
the world as a republican example. Would it be 
Buch as to show the efficacy of self-government or 
its impracticability? If instead of exhibiting jus- 
tice, moderation, liberality, the public counsels are 
guided by passion and prejudice, then, with the 
greatest advantages for promoting it that ever a 
people had, we shall have betrayed the cause of 

HMnilton's letters were printed and circulated in 
other States and were republished in London. Be- 
sides the reply of "Mentor," articles by "Gustavus," 
"Anti-Phocionite," and others appeared, but Ham- 
ilton's superiority in any pamphlet war was so over- 
whelming that there was some talk of forcing upon 
him a succession of duels, until he was done for. 
The only existing authority for this statement is 
J. C. Hamilton's biography, which relates that Led- 
ird heard of the plot and broke it up by his indig- 
nt protest; furthermore, that Hamilton shook 


hands with Ledyard and thanked him for saving his 
life. Isaac Q. Leake's memoir of General John 
Lamb, a well-documented work, questions the accu- 
racy of the account so far as Ledyard is concerned, 
but gives precise details of a challenge sent to Ham- 
ilton by Colonel Eleazer Oswald, subsequently with- 
drawn, as "the affair was adjusted honorably to both 
parties." It is at least clear that Hamilton took 
serious risks in braving local sentiment as he did, 
but such considerations never daunted him at any 
time in any way. 

All sorts of professional business now flowed to 
Hamilton. In 1784 he oi;ganized the Bank of New 
York. From a letter of March 10, to his brother-in- 
law, John Barker Church, it appears that Hamilton 
went into this enterprise to counteract a land-bank 
acheme which was being urged upon the legislature 
as "the true philosopher's stone that was to turn all 
their rocks and tre^ into gold." Alarmed by this 
project, New York merchants started a subscription 
for a money bank, and on their application Hamilton 
prepared its constitution and by-laws. 

This was but an item of his numerous professional 
activities. His gains by them did not dull his per- 
ception of the fact that much of the legal practice of 
the times was due to bad government. He remarked 
to a correspondent that " legislative folly had afforded 
so plentiful a harvest that he had scarcely a moment 
to spare from the substantial business of reaping." 


There is plenty of evidence to show that Hamilton 
had taken a leading rank at the New York bar^ and 
all he needed to do to make his fortime was to 
keep out of politics; but this he cotdd not do. 


The four years that elapsed between the end of the 
war and the meeting of the constitutional convention 
of 1787 was a period of increasing anarchy. The 
only organ of national authority was the Continental 
Congress, and that was profoundly distrusted. 
Whatever fluids it could get hold of were disbursed 
through its own committees, which were not subject 
to much accountability. The payment of members 
was supposed to come from the States that sent 
them, and it varied from time to time and from place 
to place, according to the disposition of the State 
authorities and the personal popularity of a mem- 
ber. The Massachusetts delegates were allowed £lO 
a day and expenses. An account of Elbridge Gerry 
is on record which shows that from January 5, 1776, 
to July 5, 1780, he was allowed for his time and 
expenses £40,502 6s. and 2d., which is at the rate 
of over $44,000 a year. On the face of it this is a 
larger sum than was charged by Washington for his 
expenses for eight years as commander-in-chief, but 
nominal amounts were so different from real values 
that exact comparison is impossible. 
The household of the president of the Continental 



Congress was maintained by that body as a public 
institution. No fixed allowance was made, but 
Congress by resolution directed that "a convenient, 
furnished dwelling house be hired, and a table, car- 
riage and servants provided at the pubKc expense." 
The conamittee on the treasury appointed a steward 
and supervised his accounts. The president was ex- 
pected to keep open house. General Washington 
wrote that "the table was always crowded, and with 
mixed company, and the president considered in no 
better light than as a maitre d^hotdJ' 

The profusion which always surrounded Congress 
was one of the sources of army discontent. In 1780 
Congress raised the pay of its principal clerks to 
$8,000 a year; of the auditor-general to $12,000; of 
the secretary of Congress to $14,000. All these siuns 
are subject to large discount, from the depreciation 
of the currency; but the army suffered in the same 
way, and meanwhile could not get arrears of pay 
due them. In a letter to Hamilton, April 22, 1783, 
Washington said: "Let me assure you that it would 
not be more difficult to still the raging billows in a 
tempestuous gale, than to convince the officers of 
this army of the justice or policy of paying men in 
civil office full wages, when they cannot obtain a 
sixtieth part of their dues." 

The membera of Congress voted as States and 
were alert to see that in the distribution of patron- 
age each State got its share, which, of course, tended 



to multiply offices. Robert Morris introduced 
economies which incurred for him bitter enmities. 
Madison wrote to Jefferson, September 20, 1783: 
"The department of finance is an object of ahnost 
daily attack, and will be reduced to its crisis on the 
final resignation of Mr. Morris, which will take place 
in a few moi^ths." In November Morris wrote to 
Jay that the members of Congress, instead of sup- 
porting him as they had promised to do, were trying 
to frustrate his plans so as to ruin him personally. 
Early in 1783 he offered his resignation, but was per- 
suaded to stay long enough to arrange a settlement 
with the army. Then he insisted on getting out 
and he retired on November 1, 1784. Congress then 
returned to its old methods and put the treasuiy in 
the hands of a board of three commissioners, one of 
them being Arthur Lee, who had been the tireless 
enemy of Morris's administration. 

The States were loath to impose taxes and collect 
money for such an irresponsible body as Congress, 
and were apt to turn sulky when lectured about 
their behavior. In March, 1783, General Greene 
wrote a letter to the South Carolina Legislature, 
urging that something should be done for the public 
credit and for the support of the army. In this he 
did no more than he had often done during the war, 
with the approval of the legislature, but now it 
treated his action as an offense to its dignity, and 
resented it by repealing its former consent to the 



f five-per-eent impost. The circular letter of June 8, 
1783, which Washington addressed to the governors 
of all the States urging compliance with the demand 
of Congress for the power to levy taxes, wholly 
failed to move the States, and from a letter of Ran- 
dolph to Madison it appears that there was a general 
murmur "against what is called the imsoKeited ob- 
trusion of his advice." 

In fact, distrust of the Continental Congress never 
could be overcome, although that body did what it 
could to remove opposition by promises of amend- 
ment and by reducing its demands. In its efforts 
to conciliate the States, Congress agreed to become 
a migratory body. There was jealousy over the 
sectional advantage which it was held that Pennsyl- 
vania derived from the meeting of Congress in Phil- 
adelphia. In 1783, after Congress had left Phila- 
delphia for Princeton, there were numerous debates 
on the subject of a federal city, and it was resolved 
that there should be two national capitals, one on 
the Delaware and the other on the Potomac, to be 
used alternately by Congress; but until suitable 
buildii^ should be erected Congress should sit in 
Trenton and at Annapolis by turns. But nothing 
that Congress could do could persuade the States 
to provide Congress with sources of revenue under 
its own administration. All that years of coaxing 
and pleading could effect was the cession of all the 
western lands to the United States, which from the 



Stat€ point of view was a handsome provision of 
aseets with which in time Congress should be able 
to meet its Uabilities. 

Meanwhile the national government was bank- 
rupt and its prospects seemed hopeless. For a long 
time everything indicated that the Confederation 
woiild run the usual career of dissolution, such as 
had been followed by every Confederation known 
to history up to that time, and that was the general 
expectation among thoughtful observers. Those 
who labored to keep the States together sustained 
their hopes by the belief that the people would learn 
by experience the need of a general government, and 
meanwhile they used every possible means to direct 
the course of events. Their efforts were powerfully 
aided by increasing evidence of the weakness and 
incompetence of State authority. Distrust of the 
Continental Congress was now associated with dis- 
trust of the State legislatures, and the effect was to 
produce a desire for authority superior to both. 
Thoughts turning in that direction rested comforta- 
bly upon the stanch figure of Geoi^e Washington, 
in whose prudence and integrity there was universal 

Conditions did not become ripe for action until 
1786, when, in addition to their other troubles, the 
States were in a snarl about commercial regulations. 
Such important waters as Long Island Soimd, New 
York Bay, the Delaware, the Chesapeake, were not 


■ any of tl 


any of them under the jurisdiction of a single State, 
and regulations adopted by one State were affected 
by the action of neighboring States. The whole 
subject of interstate relations received a large addi- 
tion of interest when schemes of internal navigation 
became a general topic of discussion. No subject 
was more popular, as it contained many elements 
appealing to the imagination — business opportunity, 
means of transportation, commercial expansion, de- 
velopment of natural resources, the advance of 
America in wealth and population. Joel Barlow, the 
Connecticut poet, whose masterpiece, the Vision of 
Columbus, made its appearance in March, 1787, told 
in it how 

" Canals, long-winding, ope a watery flight. 
And distant streams and seas and lakes unite. 
Prom fair Albania, toward the setting sun, 
Back through the midland, lengthening channels run. 
Meet the fair lakes, their beauteous towns that lave. 
And Hudson join to broad Ohio's wave." 

This poetic vision was eventually realized by the 
construction of the Erie Canal. A project of like 
character gave the nationally minded statesmen the 
leverage they needed to lift their scheme into the 
field of practical politics. In 1784, upon Washing- 
ton's recommendation, Virginia became interested in 
plans for a waterway between the Chesapeake and 
the West. This matter gave added importance to 


pending commercial negotiations between Maryland 
and Vii^inia. Commissioners from both States 
were appointed to meet in Alexandria, in March, 
1785. Washington invited them to Mount Vernon, 
and there they reached an agreement for joint action 
by the two States. The discussion which ensued 
brought out so clearly the need of general action 
that in January, 1786, the Virginia Legislature ap- 
pointed commissioners "to meet such as might be 
appointed by the other States of the Union" to con- 
sider the whole subject of commercial regulations. 
These commercial negotiations gave Hamilton the 
handle for which he had been waiting. By 1785 the 
excesses of the dominant faction in New York had 
provoked such a strong reaction that in the elections 
that year many changes took place in the composi- 
tion of the legislature. Of the nine members of the 
delegation from New York City, seven failed of re- 
election, among them Aaron Burr. The new mem- 
bers included some of Hamilton's closest friends. 
One of them, Robert Troup, has related that "Ham- 
ilton had no idea that the legislature could be pre- 
vailed on to adopt the system as recommended by 
Congress, neither had he any partiality for a com- 
mercial convention, otherwise than as a stepping- 
stone to a general convention, to form a general con- 
stitution. In pursuance of his plan, the late Mr. 
Duer, the late Colonel Malcolm, and myself, were 
sent to the state legislature as part of the city dele- 


gatioii; and we were to make every possible effort to 
accomplish Hamilton's objects." 

The mercantile interests of New York were deeply 
aggrieved by the impotence of national authority. 
The expanding conmierce of the nation was without 
any sort of public guardianship. On May 19, 1785, 
the ship Empress, the first American vessel to visit 
China, returned to the port of New York, the event 
arousing great enthusiasm. But in that same year 
came doleful accounts of the way Algerine corsairs 
preyed upon American commerce, capturing vessels 
and enslaving the crews. Mercantile advocacy of 
some regular provision for the support of the national 
government became so urgent that the dominant 
faction was impressed with the need of conciliatory 
measures. Although the congressional scheme was 
rejected, there was great profession of willingness to 
allow federal taxation imder State control, and it 
was decided to make a favorable response to the 
Virginia call for a commercial convention. As such 
a convention had no power to bind, and whatsoever 
recommendations it might make could have no legal 
effect save such as the State legislature might choose 
to allow, the matter did not seem to be of sufficient 
importance to become a bone of contention, and 
hence Hamilton's friends were able to have his name 
included in the list of delegates, six in number. 

The convention met in Annapolis, in September, 
1786. Of the New York delegates only two at- 


tended, Hamilton and the attoraey-general, Egbert 
Benson. Only five States were represented, and the 
affair looked like a failure, but it was known that in 
the case of some States absence did not imply want 
of sj'mpathy with the announced purpose of the 
convention. Although the convention met in the 
Maryland capital, Maryland was not represented 
through fear that the effect might be to weaken the 
powers of Congress. South Carolina sent no dele- 
gates, but she had already defined her position on 
the question by instructing her delegates in Congress 
to vote for the national regulation of commerce for 
fifteen years. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and 
Massachusetts appointed delegates but they did not 
attend. Hamilton saw in the situation the means 
of impressing the public mind with the impossibility 
of a commercial settlement without a political set- 
tlement. He framed an address, which was unani- 
mously adopted by the convention, recommending 
the appointment of commissioners to a convention 
to meet in Philadelphia in May, 1787, "to take into 
consideration the situation of the United States, to 
devise such further provisions as shall appear to them 
necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal 
Government ad^juaie to the exigencies of the Union, 
and to report such an act for that purpose to 
the United States in Congress assembled as, when 
agreed to by them and afterwards confirmed by the 
Legislature of every State, will effectually provide 
for the a 



^r Of all the various pleas that Hamilton made for 
the meeting of a constitutional convention, the 
Annapolis address is vaguest in its terms. Accord- 
ing to Madison, this was due to the insistence of 
Randolph, of Virginia, to whose advice Hamilton 
deferred, since Virginia's active support of the move- 
ment was all-important. Otto, the French minis- 
ter, in a dispatch to his government, gave an exact 
account of what was done. He remarked: "By prt>- 
posing a new organization of the general govern- 
ment, all minds would have been revolted; circum- 
Btances ruinous to the commerce of America have 
happily arisen to furnish the reformers with a pre- 
text for introducing innovations." 

On returning from Annapolis Hamilton went 
energetically to work to bring New York into line 
with the movement. On the face of it, the situation 
looked hopeless. Governor Clinton, a man of the 
Ulster breed, who possessed to the fullest extent the 
inflexible character which goes with that breed, was 
opposed to anything that would abate State suprem- 
acy, and he was now assured of that soUd support 
to his position which is supplied by large vested in- 
terests identified with it. The State had created a 
tariff system of its own: custom-houses had been 
established; collectors, surveyors, gangers, weighers, 
and tidewaiters had been appointed. Thus there 
was a phalanx of active politicians committed by 
their class interest against any transfer of commer- 

il control to the Federal Government and, as usual 


when a class interest is imperilled, they invoked the 
spirit of liberty with ardent zeal. An argument 
energetically pressed in the pamphlet controversira 
of the period was that republicanism had never 
flourished except in small states, and the creation of 
"a mighty Continental legislature" would be the 
doom of American liberty. A writer who signed 
himself "Sydney" made rather a plausible argument 
from English history, to the effect that a despotic 
oUgarchy would be erected if Congress were allowed 
to levy taxes through its own agents. 

Hamilton threw himself into the fray, and in the 
election of 17S6 he came forward personally as a 
candidate for the legislature. His ticket won at 
the polls in New York City through the warm sup- 
port of the business community, but up-State senti- 
ment was stiU strongly antifederal, and Governor 
Clinton was supported by a compact majority in 
both branches of the legislature. Hamilton had 
but a small following on any test of party strength, 
but he was able to accomplish his main purpose, 
that of engaging the State in the national movement. 
He was able to do this by sheer dexterity of manage- 
ment, in which he displayed that fine statesman- 
ship which axtracts success from untoward circum- 

To view the developments in their right relation 
it is important to bear in mind that Hamilton did 
not approve the scheme which Congress was urging. 


While a member of Congress Hamilton had opposed 
that scheme and voted against it; standing out in 
opposition to his own colleagues from New York. 
In a letter to Governor Clinton at the time he jus- 
tified his action on the ground that he could never 
consent to "attempts which must either fail in the 
execution or be productive of evil/' and that he 
"would rather incur the negative inconveniences of 
delay than the positive mischiefs of injudicious ex- 
pedients." This scheme was adopted by Congress, 
April 18, 1783, with the idea of wheedling the States 
into providing it with a definite source of revenue. 
By it the five-per-cent impost previously urged was 
abandoned, and instead of it there was proposed a 
schedule of specific duties on spirits, tea, coffee, 
sugar, and molasses, not to be continued longer than 
twenty-five years, the proceeds to be applied to no 
other purpose than the discharge of the interest or 
principal of the debts contracted on the faith of the 
United States for supporting the war, the collectors 
to be appointed by the States within which their 
duties were to be exercised, but "amenable to and 
removable by" Congress; and Congress was to ren- 
der an annual account to the States of the proceeds 
of each of the specified articles. In Hamilton's judg- 
ment this scheme fell inamensely short of what the 
situation demanded, but it was the only national 
proposal then pending, and so he pressed it upon 
the attention of the legislature. It is, however, 


clear from what is now known of all the circumstances 
that what this really meant waa simply a turn of the 

In addition to handling an adverse State legislar 
ture, Hamilton had also to handle an adverse Con- 
gress. After leaving Philadelphia in 1783 Congress 
had held a session at Princeton, one at Annapolis, 
and one at Trenton; but, tiring of a migratory life, 
it settled down in New York City in 1785; and that 
continued to be the place of meeting until after the 
adoption of the new Constitution. In 1786 Congress 
issued a statement declaring that it could not recom- 
mend any other scheme than the one proposed in 
1783, and r^etting that Maiyland, Georgia, Rhode 
Island, and New York still refused to assent to a 
system "so long since and so repeatedly presented 
for their adoption." The attitude of New York 
was r^arded by Congress as the decisive factor, 
and by sitting in New York City the members hoped 
to influence the action of the State legislature which 
also met there. In 1786 the legislature yielded suflB- 
ciently to pass an act giving Congress the proceeds 
of the duties but reserving to the State "the sole 
power of levying and collecting" them. This was a 
great disappointment to Congress, as meanwhile 
other States had concurred and it now seemed that 
only New York stood in the way of the success of 
the plan. Congress therefore adopted resolutions 
declaring that the New York enactment was not ft 


^^^ T 

HtHupliance with the plan proposed by Congress and 
uiging Governor Chnton to reconvene the legislature 
to consider the subject again; but Clinton was im- 

When news came of the action of the Annapolis 
convention Congress was much disturbed by it, re- 
garding it as still another hindrance to the adoption 
of the pending scheme. The call for a convention to 
revise the Articles of Confederation was denounced 
as illegal, that bemg the proper function of Congress. 
This view was adopted by leading men in a number 
of Stat^. There was no prospect of inducmg Con- 
gress to concur in the call for the Philadelphia con- 
vention until the members were convinced that there 
was no hope that the New York Legislature could 
be persuaded to accept their financial scheme. 

The skill with which Hamilton managed the di- 
verse elements of this comphcated situation so as 
to produce the result he desired finely displays his 
poUtical genius. The particulars deserve full con- 
sideration, the more so since a confused account of 
what occurred has passed into history. While other 
periods in his career were more briUiant, at no time 
was there such a rich and varied exhibition of his 
oanship as in this wonderful year of 1787. 



The session of 1787 of the New York Legislatiire 
lasted from January 12 to April 21. During most 
of this period Congress was in session almost along- 
side. Members could therefore inform themselves 
directly of what was going on in State politics, and 
many of them were listeners to Hamilton's speeches. 
At that time colonial practice was still retained by 
the legislature. Its proceedings began with a speech 
from the governor to which an answer was voted by 
each house. This arrangement allowed any ques- 
tion to be made an issue forthwith if such was the 

Hamilton was appointed a member of the com- 
mittee to prepare the answer of the Assembly, and 
he reported a draft which simply declared that "the 
several important matters mentioned in your Excel- 
lency's speech, and communicated in the papers that 
accompany it, shall, in the course of the session, 
engage our serious attention." The Speaker, Rich- 
ard Varick, moved an amendment expressing "ap- 
probation of your Excellency's conduct in not con- 
vemng the legislature at an earher period." This 
brought on an animated debate, in which feelings 



excited by the struggle over the federal impost re- 
ceived strong expression. Varick offered to with- 
draw his motion, but objection was made. All this 
took place in committee of the whole, and it was 
finally decided that the committee should rise and 
report. During this stage of the controversy Ham- 
ilton kept out of it, remarking that " he would reserve 
himself on this subject until it came again before 
them, when he hoped to be enabled to offer such 
arguments as would strike with conviction the can- 
did part of the House." The matter then went over 
until January 19, when General Malcolm moved 
a further amendment noting the fact that the fed- 
eral-revenue act, passed at the last session, had not 
been considered by Congress "as a compKance with 
their act of April, 1783," and declaring that "al- 
though our inclination, as well as the persuasion that 
it is the sentiment of our constituents, will dispose 
us on all occasions to manifest the most respectful 
attention to the recommendations" of Congress, yet, 
in view of the expense and inconvenience which an 
extra session would have imposed, "we are of opinion 
that your Excellency was justifiable in forbearing to 
convene the legislature until the time appointed by 

It would be a mistake to think that these amend- 
ments were offered in a spirit of hostility to Hamil- 
ton. Both Varick and Malcolm were members of 
the city delegation and were among Hamilton's per- 


sonal friends. Both were men of independent char- 
acter and individual judgment, who formed and 
acted upon their own views. Varick had been 
General Schuyler's military secretary early in the 
war, eventually becoming recording secretary to 
General Washington. He was Mayor Duane's judi- 
cial colleague in the city court, when that tribunal 
adopted Hamilton's ^iews of the supremacy of a 
national treaty over State law. In 1786 he was ap- 
pointed with Samuel Jones to revise the State laws, 
which work has preserved his memory in the l^a! 
profession, while in general civic life he is remem- 
bered as a founder and president of the American 
Bible Society. Malcolm entered the war as colonel 
of a local regiment of infantry at the same time 
Hamilton entered as artillery captain. The rela- 
tions of Hamilton with both were so intimate that 
it is scarcely possible that he did not know just 
what thqy intended to do. 

Not until after Malcolm's amendment was offered 
did Hamilton take part in the debate. He b^an 
by remarking: 

I have seen with regret the proRresa of this business, 
and it was my earnest wish to have avoided this present 
discussion. I saw with regret the first application of 
Congress to the governor, because it was easy to see that 
it involved a delicate dilemiua: Either the governor, tiam 
consideration of inconvenience, might refuse to call the 
Assembly, which would derogate from the respect due to 



Dr he might call than, and by bang brou^it 
together at an unreasooable period before the time-ap- 
pomted by law for the purpose, they would meet with 
reluctance. . . . 

Hence it was that he faad thought wise to omit 
any mention of the subject in the reply of the House 
to the governor's speech. "I thought," he said, 
"we might safely be silent without any implication 
of censure on the governor. It was nather in my 
mind to condemn nor approve. I was only desirous 
of avoiding an interference in a constitutional ques- 
tion, which belonged entirely to the province of the 
executive authority of the State, and about which I 
knew there would be a difference of opinion, even 
in this house. I subniit it to the house, whether 
this was not a prudent course, and whether it is not 
to be lamented that the proposed amendment forces 
the discussion upon us. Constitutional questions 
are always delicate; they should never be touched 
but from necessity." 

But since, in spite of his efforts, the matter had 
been brought forward and the House committed to 
an examination of the subject, it should be viewed 
in its full extent. He proceeded to depict in grave 
and impartial language the miseries of the situation 
and the impossibility of satisfactory action of any 
Jdnd in such circumstances. On the pending ques- 
tion he was, of course, defeated. Matters had gone 
so far that the Clinton men insisted upon distinct 



approbation of the governor's decision. Malcolm's 
amendment was voted down, although Varick voted 
for it. Malcolm in his turn voted for Varick's 
amendment, which was carried by a vote of 36 to 9. 
Hamilton voted against both amendments, but he 
had made it clear that he did so in no spirit of antag- 
onism, but for reasons which deeply impressed the 
House and influenced its subsequent action. 

Although the Clinton men carried their point, 
that made them the more desirous that their action 
should not be taken to mean that they acted in any 
spirit of opposition to the Continental Congress or 
to federal authority. As to that, they were entirely 
sincere. Popular history has not done justice to 
Governor Clinton's motives. On October 14, 1783, 
he wrote to Washington: "I am fully persuaded, 
unless the powers of the National Council are en- 
larged, and that body better supported than it is at 
present, all their measures will discover such feeble- 
ness and want of energy, as will stain us with dis- 
grace, and e-xpose us to the worst of evils." If his 
subsequent behavior now seems to have been incon- 
sistent with such professions, it never wore that 
appearance to him, for he steadily exerted his influ- 
ence in favor of State support to the authority of 
the Confederation. He was not opposed to grant- 
ing to Congress the sources of revenue it demanded. 
The point on which he insisted was that the agency 
should be wholly State agency; that a foreign set of 




H™'^"co!lectors should not be intruded within the 
sphere of the State, to impair its jurisdiction within 
its own area and possibly to clash with its author- 
ity. As he viewed the case, that was the very issue 
over which the War of Independence had been 
fought. If the States should now waive their inde- - 
pendence in favor of the Continental Congress, why 
should they not have done so in favor of the British 
Parliament, whose demands were, in fact, small in 
amount in comparison with those now being pressed ? 
Such views were very generally held among the elder 
statesmen, the men who had been leaders of Aineri- 
CMi resistance at a time when Hamilton was a child. 
Clinton's attitude in New York was no other than 
that of Samuel Adams in Massachusetts and Patrick 
Henry in Virginia. 

On one point the Clinton men were entirely 
correct, namely, that grant of authority to the Fed- 
eral Government to operate within the States by its 
own agents would be incompatible with State sov- 
ereignty. Hamilton admitted this with a frankness 
which the Congressional politicians regarded as in- 
judicious. Their line was to contend that the grant 
was so carefully limited that there coiild be no actual 
impairment of State sovereignty. The line of the 
Clinton men was to profess entire willingness to 
comply with the wishes of Congress, provided the 
sovereignty of the State was respected. It was, of 
course, known both to the members of Congress 


and to the Clinton men that Hamilton had been 
opposed to the Congressional scheme, but that did 
not prejudice its chances now because the ground of 
his opposition was that it did not go far enough, and 
this would naturally sugg^t to the Clinton men the 
expediency of acceding to the Congressional demand 
and thus ending a troublesome agitation. But their 
leaders were too sincerely attached to the principle 
of State sovereignty to yield on that point. At the 
same time the Congressmen could not but feel that 
Hamilton had made the strongest possible presentsr 
tion of their case. The most cogent argument they 
could now offer was that if New York still insisted 
upon its modification of the Congressional scheme 
the concurrence of the other States would go for 
nothing, and the whole weary business of getting 
assent to the plan would have to begin over again. 
Hamilton pressed that consideration with great 
force. "The immediate consequences of accepting 
our grant," he told the Assembly, "would be a relin- 
quishment of the grants of other States. They must 
take up the matter anew, and do the work over 
again to accommodate it to our standard. In order 
to anchor our State, would it have been wise to set 
twelve, or at least eleven, others afloat?" 

Incidentally he portrayed with great power the 
miserable situation into which the country was 
drifting. All factions felt that anxiety, however 
obstinate their attachment to their particular prin- 


ciples. No attempt was made to reply to Hamil- 
ton's argument; but acceptance of the Congressional 
plan of impost was defeated by a vote of 36 to 21. 
The decision was rendered in such silence that 
among the New York Federalists it became a say- 
ing that "the impost was strangled by a band of 
mutes." The sflence was a recognition of the ex- 
treme seriousness of the situation^ and that was just 
what Hamilton aimed to produce. The effect was 
to convince the members of Congress that every- 
thing had been done that could be done to get New 
York to accept their plan, and they were now quite 
ready to favor the movement for a federal conven- 
tion. At the same time the Clinton men were now 
keen to show that in doing what they had done they 
meant no disrespect to the Continental Congress, 
and were ready to make concessions so long as the 
principle of State sovereignty was not violated. 

Hamilton promptly availed himself of this favor- 
able situation, and now events moved rapidly. The 
impost was defeated on February 15. On the 17th 
Hamilton offered a resolution instructing the New 
York delegates to move in Congress for its recom- 
mendation to the States to send representatives to 
a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation. 
The resolution was promptly adopted by the Assem- 
bly, but action was delayed in the Senate for one 
day, and concurrence was then barely obtained, 
there being a majority of just one vote. On the 



21at the matter was taken up in Congress, and a 
resolution was adopted recommending the States to 
send delegates to the Philadelphia convention, but 
while adopting the suggestions of the Annapolis 
address aa to place and time the purpose was some- 
what difterently stated. According to the Annapo- 
lis address, drafted by Hamilton, the purpose was 
"to render the constitution of the Federal Govern- 
ment adequate to the exigencies of Ike Union." Ac- 
cording to the Congressional resolution, it was "for 
the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles 
of Confederation." On the 26th, on Hamilton's 
motion, the New York Assembly adopted a resolu- 
tion for the appointment of five delegates to the 
Philadelphia convention; but the Senate reduced the 
number to three, and in joint convention Yates, 
Hamilton, and Lansmg were elected by ballot. 
Both from his personal eminence and from the fact 
that he was the mover of the resolution, Hamilton 
could not have been omitted from the list of dele- 
gates, but care was taken to hobble him by giving 
him two rigid State-sovereignty men as his col- 
leagues. The arrangement was so disagreeable to 
HMnilton that toward the end of the session he 
made an attempt to have two additional commis- 
sioners chosen, so as to make the number five, as he 
had originally planned, but on that point he was 
defeated. Nevertheless, he had attained his main 
object, through his ability to use as his instruments 


I hostile State legislature and a reluctant Congr^s. 
itJp to that time the success of the movement for a 
■convention had been very doubtful. The example 
*■■ and influence of Virginia had in a short time caused 

the appointment of delegates by five other States; 

but then the movement seemed to be exhausted. 

I It was the adhesion of New York and the sanction 
of Congress that made the business go. All the 
jemaining States now sent delegates, except Rhode 
Island; but that did not matter much, as its reputa- 
tion was then such that it was nicknamed "Rogura' 

In addition to his successful pilotage of the con- 
vention movement, Hamilton accomplished much 
important legislation during this memorable session. 
The proscriptive legislation he had assailed in his 
Phocion letters was now wiped off the statute books. 
In urging the repeal of all acts inconsistent with the 
treaty of peace, he reiterated his old contention that 
the judges were bound to apply the treaty, no mat- 
ter what State law might direct. He said: "Their 
powers will be the same, whether this law was passed 
or not," but he held that "it would be impoUtic to 
leave them to the dilemma, either of infringing the 
treaty to enforce the particular laws of the State, 
or to explain away the laws of the State to give 
effect to the treaty." This was strong doctrine to 
address to an assembly devoted to State sovereignty. 
And so also, in another important matter, he took 


a line so apt to irritate State pride that no politician 
would have ventured upon it who determined his 
principles by their popularity. Hamilton advocated 
recognition of the State of Vermont, although it 
had been formed in territory claimed by New York. 
The speech in which he presented his views is a fine 
exhibition of the breadth of Hamilton's statraman- 
ship. The matter had been previously discussed in 
the spirit of a conveyancer, with reference to ancient 
grants and titles. Discarding such considerations, 
Hamilton took up the fundamental objects of gov- 
ernment, and from these he drew cogent reasons 
against any attempt to coerce the people of Ver- 
mont. The entire frankness with which Hamilton 
declared his principles, at any stage of the tide of 
popular sentiment, is very striking. Anything like 
dissimulation was foreign to his nature throughout 
his entire career up to its closing years, when there 
was a decline that will be noted in its place. All 
his achievements were due to his intellectual power, 
without aid from any of the arts of cajolery. 

It has been remarked that Hamilton did not take 
as prominent a part in the Philadelphia convention 
as might have been expected, and it is certainly the 
case that he did not figure among its leaders, to the 
extent that might have been expected from his pre- 
vious activity. In Jefferson's papers is preserved a 
record of some table-talk in which George Mason, a 

Virginia delegate, related that "Yates and Lansing 



Lsever voted in a single instance with Hamflton, 

ho was so much mortified at it that he went home." 

he notion that Hamilton was snuffed out by Yates 

I Lansing shows that Mason did not understand 

he situation. Nothing could daunt Hamilton, and 

! could not have been surprised or mortified that 

; and Lansing opposed him; that is just what 

r had been put there to do. It would be absurd 

think that such a familiar situation had bereft 

Hamilton of the activity, shrewdness, dexterity, and 

practical power of which he had just before made 

such a signal display. 

The true explanation of Hamilton's periods of ab- 
sence from the convention is very simple — he had to 
make his li\Tng. He was not situated like the plan- 
tation statesmen, whose business affairs could be 
looked after by their overseers while they were 
away; his income depended upon his personal efforts. 
At the time the convention met he had three chil- 
dren, the youngest just a year old; another child 
was bom the following spring. To provide for this 
growing family he had no resource save his profes- 
sional practice. Hamilton was always disposed to 
go to greater lengths of personal sacrifice in the 
public service than his family and his friends ap- 
proved; but the pubUc motive could not operate 
strongly in the case of the convention, for it soon 
appeared that where his efforts were most needed 
was in his own State and not in the convention. As 



soon as it became plain that the convention intended 
to discard the Articles of Confederation, Lansing 
and Yates withdrew. The differences which broke 
out in the convention related chiefly to the demands 
of the small States, which feared that in a national 
system the large States would override them miless 
they were allowed special security. The adjustment 
of this matter was the main problem the convention 
had to solve, and in this New York had no interest 
apart from Virginia and Massachusetts, which in 
the convention, as in the Continental Congress, 
were in the habit of working together. The legend 
that has grown up, to the efi'ect that radical differ- 
ences existed as to principles, is a throw-back from 
a later period, when party divisions had taken place 
in the conduct of the government. In 1787 the 
model all had in mind was the English constitutional 
system. Nobody then thought that there was any 
important difference between Madison and Hamilton 
in their political principles. They were then work- 
ing in close accord. Hamilton felt at Uberty to be 
occasional in his attendance, although he went as 
often as his professional engagements would allow. 
He took part in organizing the convention, May 27, 
and remained until June 29. He appears to have 
been again in Philadelphia on July 13, and he took 
part in convention proceedings on August 13 and 
for some days later, leaving in time to reach New 
York on August 20. He reappeared in the conven- 


W tion on September 6, and stayed on to the final 
sion, which took place on the 17th. 

Meanwhile there was much in the New York sifc- 
uation to require his attention. ]!>ansing and Yates 
withdrew from the convention on July 5, justifying 
their action in a letter to Governor Clinton, which 
was in effect a campaign document on the State- 
lovereignty side. Chi the 21st Hamilton made a 
brief reply in a New York newspaper, in which he 
riticised Clinton's antagonism to the convention, 

riting on the assumption that Clinton had inspired 
"the withdrawal of Lansing and Yates. Hamilton 
was at once accused of having made a wanton attack 
upon the governor of the State. He made a sharp 
reply, asserting his right to unmask "the pernicious 
intrigue of a man high in office to preserve power 
and emolument to himself, at the expense of the 
Union, the peace and the happiness of America." 
As for the grounds on which he criticised the gov- 
ernor's course, he declared his readiness "to bring 
forward to public view the sources of his informal 
tion, and the proofs of his charge," should the gov- 
ernor deny having "made use of the expressions 
imputed to him." 

Clinton apparently took the position that it was 
baieath his dignity to notice this challenge. But 
tm association of Federal Republicans was formed, 
with General John Lamb at its head, to defend the 
principle of State sovereignty. The opposition to 



the new Constitution was so well prepared for action 
that on the very day, September 24, that a copy 
reached New York for publication, a letter attacking 
tiie proposed system of government appeared in the 
New York Journal, the organ of the State adminis- 
tration. It was signed "Cato," but it was well 
known that Clinton himself was the author. In 
allusion to this signature, Hamilton replied over the 
signatiue of " Cffisar," by which he meant to suggest 
that sheer obstinacy of the Cato type played into 
the hands of demagogy of the Casar type. The allu- 
sion was too far-fetched to be understanded of the 
people, and it exposed Hamilton to rejoinders in 
which he was put on the defensive. Hamilton had 
no turn for humor or satire. The few examples 
found in his writings are the only instances in which 
his pen suffered from awkwardness. His "Cjesar" 
articles were a false move, of which his adversaries 
took prompt advantage. Clinton, as "Cato," con- 
tinued to address the public with effect, and his 
attacks on the new Constitution were strongly rein- 
forced by a series of able articles by "Brutus," 
which signature was known to be that used by 
Robert Yates, judge of the State supreme court 
and one of the delegates who had withdrawn frwn 
the Philadelphia convention. 

At this time not only was Hamilton getting ratha: 
the worst of it in the argument, but his pride was 
stung by some of the personal slurs put into cir- 


culation. He wrote to Washingtcm that ''among 
many contemptible artifices practiced by them they 
have had recooise to an insinuation that I palmed 
myself iqxm you, and that you dismissed me from 
your family. This I ccmfess hurts my feelings." 
This had reference to the way Hamilton had thrown 
up his positicm as Washington's militaiy secretary 
during the war, an affair in idiich he displayed 
boyish vanity and idiich now came back to plague 
him. Washington, with characteristic magnanim- 
ity, at once wrote a letter declaring ''that both 
chaiges are entirely unfounded." 

Before Washington's reply was received Hamilton 
had r^ained his poise. A trait of character dis- 
played throughout his whole career was that no 
shock of drciunstances could stun his mind or para- 
lyze its activities. His spirits then rose, his mind 
was then clearest in its vision, and his powers at- 
tained their greatest efficiency. He now took action 
which put his opponents on the defensive and kept 
them there. He stripped them of their title of Fed- 
eral Republican so completely that they themselves 
had to accept the name and place of Antif ederalists 
to which he assigned them. This huge charige was 
accomplished by The Federalist, the first number of 
which appeared on October 27, in the Independent 
Journal, over the pen-name of "Publius." At one 
stroke Hamilton lifted the controversy from the 
smoky atmosphere of passion into the clear light of 


reason. "It seems," he said, "to have been re- 
served to the people of this country, by their con- 
duct and example, to decide the important question, 
whether societies of men are really capable or not 
of establishing good government from reflection and 
choice, or whether they are forever destined to de- 
pend for their poUtical constitutions on accident 
and force." He went on: "If there be any truth in 
the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may 
with propriety be regarded as the era in which that 
decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the 
part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be 
considered as the general misfortune of mankind." 
This was certainly putting the matter on a very 
high and broad plane, which he went on to survey 
with appropriate dignity of style. Upon these no- 
ble premises he announced his intention, "in a se- 
ries of papers, to discuss the following interesting 

The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity 
— ^The insufficiency of the present Confederation to pre- 
serve that Union — The necessity of a government at least 
equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attain- 
ment of this object — The conformity of the proposed 
Constitution to the true principles of republican govern- 
ment — Its analogy to your own State constitution — and 
lastly. The additional security which its adoption will 
afford to the preservation of that species of government, 
to liberty, and to property. 


This large project^ carried out in the midst of 
electioneering activities, in addition to engagements 
arising from law practice, was, in fact, more than ful- 
filled by the actual performance. The task was 
completed in eighty-five letters appearing in the 
space of seven months. These casual essays, rap- 
idly produced for immediate service, alone among 
all the voliuninous writings of the period, have sur- 
vived to become a political classic. It is related by 
his son that Hamilton wrote the memorable first 
nimiber in the cabin of a sloop while returning to 
New York from Albany, where he had been attend- 
ing to cases before the State supreme court. The 
labor of carrying on the series amidst his other en- 
gagements was so burdensome that he asked help 
from his friends, and both Jay and Madison con- 
tributed, but the great majority of the articles were 
by Hamilton. Their power secured immediate at- 
tention, and so great was the public interest that 
even the New York Journal^ the organ of the State 
administration, reprinted a nimiber. The r^ular 
publication was made alternately in the Independent 
Journal and in the Daily Advertiser, and portions 
were frequently copied by journals in other States. 

In New York City the Federalists swept all before 
them, but elsewhere Clinton's control of the situa- 
tion was unbroken. When the convention met in 
June, 1788, to pass upon the question of adoption, 
Governor Clinton was chosen to preside, and it was 


then computed that out of the fifty-^even del^atra 
the FederaUsts could count assuredly upon only 
eleven. The debates lasted for three weeks, Hamil- 
ton taking an active and prominent part. His oppo- 
nents found it easier to say that he was dishi ng up 
The Federalist again than to reply to his arguments. 
The Antifederalists were in an awkward situation. 
Their leaders could not hold that the existing s>'stem 
of general government was satisfactoi^', and yet 
there was no practical alternative to acceptance of 
the new Constitution. While they delayed action 
by New York, enough States had ratified the Consti- 
tution to put it into effect, and eventually they gave 
way. On July 26 j»tifieation was carried by 30 yeas 
to 27 nays. 

Governor Clinton wrote to General Lamb that 
Hamilton had threatened that in case of defeat the 
southern end of the State would adopt the Constitu- 
tion as an independent State, leaving the interior 
counties without any outlet to the sea for their 
commerce. It is certain that in New York City 
support of the new Constitution was overwhelmingly 
strong. Three days before the final action of the 
convention a grand popular demonstration took 
place. The plans had been made and the arrange- 
ments supervised by Major Pierre L'Enfant, a 
French engineer, who during the war had been an 
aide of Baron Steuben. A man of fine taste, an 
enduring memorial of which is the way in which he 


laid out the city of Washington, he arranged the 
Federalist procession with a splendor of effect that 
can never be surpassed, now that machinery has 
taken over so many of the old handicrafts. The 
blacksmiths b^an and completed an anchor on their 
stage during the march, under a banner inscribed : 

''Forge me strong, finish me neat, 
I soon shall moor a Federal fleet." 

The sail-makers, too, exercised their craft, with the 

motto : 

"Fit me well, and rig me neat. 
And join me to the Federal fleet." 

The stone-masons displayed a temple supported by 
thirty pma,., tlT of which were ^c^Uy 
shown as unfinished, and above them the motto : 

"The foundation is firm, the materials are good. 
Each pillar's cemented with patriots' blood." 

A^ trades, degrees, professions, and interests were 
represented in the procession, but the chief feature 
was a full-rigged ship, the Hamilton^ fully manned, 
armed, and equipped. 



The adoption of the Constitution by the requisite 
number of States barely insured a trial of the new 
scheme of government; whether it would make good 
was very doubtful. It satisfied nobody, and was 
accepted by its best friends simply on the principle 
that half a loaf is better than no bread. Its enemies 
were active and determined. Patrick Henry, of 
Vii'ginia, expressed their general sentiment when he 
said that he would "seize the first moment for 
shaking off the yoke in a constitutional way." The 
original idea of the Antifederalist leaders had been 
to work through the Continental Congress. It was 
probably only in the way of precaution that Hamil- 
ton again became a member of that body in Febru- 
ary, 1788, but its proceedings turned out to be quite 
unimportant. In the autumn of 1788 a few mem- 
bers attended; gradually they fell off and the Con- 
gress finally came to an end without adjournment or 
any formal action. 

The method now adopted by the Antifederalists 
was to agitate for the meeting of another convention 
to revise the work of the Philadelphia convention. 
Patrick Henry's influence carried a resolution to that 


^r effect through the Virginia Assembly by a vote of 
more than two to one. In New York the opponents 
of the new Constitution revived the old association 
of "Federal RepubUcans" under the leadership of 
General John Lamb, and an address to the several 
States was issued in favor of electing delegates to 
another convention. Governor Clinton called a 
special session of the legislature, and in his message 
asserted that the Constitution had been ratified " on 
the express confidence, that the exercise of the dif- 
ferent powers would be suspended until it should 
undergo a revision by a general convention of the 
States." No positive action was taken by the legis- 
lature, but New York took no part in the Presi- 
dential election, the appointment of electors being 
defeated by obstinate disagreement between the 
Senate and the Assembly. 

While the opponents of the Constitution were 
planning to overthrow it, its adherents were dis- 
turbed by reports that Washington was unwilling 
to serve as President. Hamilton regarded this as 
a vital matter, and he entered into a correspondence 
with Washington, remarkable for its candor and ■ 
urgency. Washington wrote: "It is my great and 
sole desire to live and die in peace and retirement 
on my own farm." Hamilton's rejoinder waa vir- 
tually that he had no right to give himpelf that 
indulgence. " In a matter so essential to the well- 
being of society as the prosperity of a newly-insti- 

tuted government, a citizen of so much consequence 
as yourself to its success has no option but co lend 
his services if called for. Permit me to say. it would 
be inglorious, in such a situation, not to hazard the 
glor)', however great, which he might have previously 
acquired." Hamilton went on to point out that 
Washington had committed himself by recommend- 
ing the new Constitution for adoption, so he would 
not escape blame if it should turn out to be a failure, 
which it would be without his aid. Washington took 
all this in good part, telling Hamilton he was "par- 
ticularly glad that you have dealt thus freely and ' 
like a friend." It was not in Washington's nature 
to refuse to do his duty, and Hamilton apphed just 
the kind of pressure to which he would yield, but he 
thought it hard that after eight years of campaign- 
ing he should not be allowed to retire. He was en- 
tirely sincere in declaring: "If I should be prevailed 
upon to accept it, the acceptance would be attended 
with more diffidence and reluctance than I ever ex- 
perienced before in my life." Hamilton would not 
allow him any loophole; his acceptance was indis- 
pensable; circumstances left no option. "It is no 
compliment to say, that no other man can sufficiently 
unite the public opinion, or can give the requisite 
weight to the office, in the commencement of the 

The same logic by which Hamilton engaged Wash- 
ington to public service also engaged himself should 


^r Washiiii 


Washington summon him, which he did at the out- 
set of his admhiistration. While passing through 
Philadelphia, Washington saw Robert Morris and 
inquired whether he would be willing to resume 
charge of the Ti-easury Department. Morris de- 
clined, but strongly recommended Hamilton, and 
soon after reaching New York Washington offered 
Hamilton the post. In accepting it Hamilton went 
against the advice of some of his best friends. Gou- 
verneur Morris warned him against taldng a position 
in which he would have to bear calumny and perse- 
cution. "Of that," Hamilton replied, "I am aware; 
but I am convinced it is the situation in which I can 
do taost good." Robert Troup, who was Hamilton's 
closest friend at the New York bar, was asked by 
him to wind up his law business. "I remonstrated 
with him," wrote Troup, in a letter giving an ac- 
count of the incident; "he admitted that his accep- 
tance would be likely to injure hia family, but said 
there was a strong impression on his mind that in 
the financial department he coiild essentially pro- 
mote the welfare of the country; and this impression, 
united with Washington's request, forbade his re- i 
fusal of the appointment." 

As it turned out, the Antifederalists were not 
strong enough to overthrow the Constitution, but 
they were able to give it a twist that defeated the 
main feature of the original design, which was to 
complete and wtablish the executive authority that 


had been already introduced, and at the same time 
erect barriers against Congressional invasion of ex- 
ecutive functions. The miserable results of admin- 
istration of public services by committees and boards 
appointed by the Continental Congress had forced 
the creation of executive departments, and it was 
the practice for the heads of those departments to 
go before the Congress with plans and recommenda- 
tions, like a business manager appearing before a 
board of directors. In accepting the office of Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, Hamilton ei^ected to have 
the same facihties of access to Congress as Robert 
Morris had possessed. The act creating the Trea- 
sury Department was drawn on the same lines as 
the resolution of February 7, 1781, creating the office 
of Superintendent of Finance, and like it gave 
authority "to digest and report plans." An attack 
was made in Congress on this clause, which resulted 
in action excluding the Secretary of the Treasury 
from the floor and condemning him to work in the 
lobby. This alteration of the constitutional scheme 
has had and is having profound consequences. To 
it must be ascribed the singular degradation that has 
taken place in the position of the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and, indeed, the whole constitutional 
scheme was turned awry by it, which fact must be 
allowed for in reading The Federalist. It may seem 
that its estimates of relative power and importance 
in the various organs of authority are sadly out of 



■ue reckoning, but it should be considered that the 
procedtjre then in mind differed from that actimlly 

It is a remarkable fact that this change was due 
more to James Madison than any one else, and it 
was the first manifestation of a variance that soon 
developed into open hostility. Up to that time 
Hamilton and Madison had been working in friendly 
accord. Hamilton had no idea that there was any 
important difference in their views on public policy. 
He was delighted when Madison was elected to the 
House, and counted upon his aid. In 1792 Hamil- 
ton wrote to a friend: 


When I accepted the office I now hold, it was under full 
persuasion, that from similarity of thinking, conspiring 
with personal good-will, I should have the firm support of 
Mr. Madison in the general course of my administration. 
Aware of the intrinsic difficulties of the situation, and of 
the powers of Mr. Madison, I do not believe I should 

Lve accepted under a different supposition. 

In the First Congress Madison occupied a position 
of singular influence. In addition to his high rank 
as a leader in the movement for a new constitution 
he was regarded as the possessor of Washington's 
confidence and as an exponent of the policy of the 
Administration. At Washington's request Madison 
drafted for him his replies to the addresses of the 
House and the Senate at the opening of the aeseion. 



He took the leading part in canying a series of 
amendments to the Constitution to remove some 
of the objections that had been m^ed against it. 
This action was very efficacious in allaying hostility 
to the new Constitution, and thereafter many who 
had been its opponents now aimed at getting con- 
trol of the new government and shaping procedure 
under the Constitution. When opposition to the 
government formed on this new line, Madison him- 
self joined it. Hamilton was slow in recognizing 
this change of attitude, and he gave Madison his 
confidence while Madison was making plans for his 

The first evidence of Madison's opposition came 
during the struggle over the organization of the gov- 
ernment, but even then, although perplexed by it, 
Hamilton failed to comprehend its significance. 
When the business of creating the executive depart- 
ments was taken in hand, there was at the outset a 
sharp contention over the question whether the 
heads of departments should be removable by the 
President. On such issues the Antifederalists as 
such had no distinct policy, but there was so much 
uneasiness, suspicion, and anxiety that it was easy 
to stir up opposition on any issue that might be 
raised. The situation was favorable to the activities 
of an experienced politician who was attached to the 
kind of government originally carried on by the 
Continental Congress, and who was bent upon rdn- 


stating it, so far aa possible, under the new Consti- 
tution. Elbridge Geny was a member of the Con- 
tinental Congress from 1776 to 1785. As a delegate 
to the Philadelphia convention he had opposed the 
main features of the new Const tution, and he was 
among those who refused to sign the report recom- 
mending it to the States for adoption. In the de- 
bate on the removal power he introduced a style of 
argument that has flourished in Congress ever since 
— ^the use of sliu* and innuendo against people not 
present to defend themselves. He dwelt upon the 
possibility that the President might be influenced by 
other than pubhc motives if allowed to remove from 
office in his own discretion. "Perhaps the officer is 
not good-natured enough; he makes an imgraceful 
bow, or does it left leg foremost; this is most xmbe- 
coming in a great officer at the President's levee. 
Now, because he is so imfortimate as not to be so 
good a dancer as he is a worthy officer, he must be 
removed.'' Madison met this onslaught by the sen- 
sible argument that the President could not be held 
to responsibility imless he could control his sub- 
ordinates, and carried the house with him by a 
decisive majority. 

What Gerry was really after was to obtain for 
Congress the same direct custody of public fimds 
that the Continental Congress had formerly pos- 
sessed and had reluctantly surrendered when Robert 
Morris was made Superintendent of Finance. When 



Morris resigned in disgust in 1784, Congress put the 
treasury in the hands of three commissioners ap- 
pointed and supervised by it. Geriy now labored 
hard to perpetuate this arrangement, arguing that 
to allow one man to hold an office of such power 
might be too great a trial to any one's integrity 
and would at least give continual reason to suspect 
misconduct, thus repelling popular confidence in 
the new government. On this issue Gerry met a 
crushing defeat, for it was notorious that the board 
system of treasury management had been accom- 
panied by confusion, extravagance, and dishonesty. 
Gerry was overwhelmed by instances given by mem- 
bers from their personal knowledge. Wadsworth, 
of Connecticut, described the disorder that existed 
in the records of the treasury board at that very 
time, making it impossible to check their accounts, 
and he declared that they had handled the finances 
in such a way as to double the national debt. 

When they were defeated in the attempt to per- 
petuate the board system, it became the object of 
the Antifederalists to reduce the authority of the 
Secretary of the Treasury. Page, of Virginia, at- 
tacked the authority to "digest and report plans" 
as an attempt to give the administration undue in- 
fluence over the House. Page himself was a 
new figure in the national field, although he had 
been active and prominent in his own State. The 
opponents of the new government at once fell 



line with him, and did everything they could to 

[cite suspicion and alarm as to the purposes of the 

.tional leaders. Geriy declared: "If the doctrine 
ktf having prime and great miniBters of state was once 
well established, he did not doubt but that we should 
soon see them distuiguished by a green or red rib- 
bon, or other insignia of court favor and patronage." 

The debate on the merits of the case went heav- 
ily against the antis. It was pointed out that the 
true way to keep the secretary from exercising 
undue influence over the House was to confront 
him with his responsibilities in the presence of the 
House, exposed to its inquiry and to its criticism. 
Fisher Ames observed that merely to call for in- 
formation would not be advantageous to the House. 
It will be no mark of inattention or neglect, if he 

:e time to consider the questions you propound; 

t if you make it his duty to furnish you plans and 
le neglect to perform it, his conduct or capacity 
is viitually impeached." Sedgwick, with prophetic 
vision, declared: "Make your officer responsible, 
and the presumption is that plans and information 
are properly digested; but if he can secrete him- 
self behind the curtain, he might create a noxious 
influence, and not be answerable for the information 
he gives." 

Argument of this tenor was carrying the House 
it, and doubtless the clause would have been 
)pted in its original form, had not Madison altered 



the whole situation by favoring a compromisej to 
be effected by changing the word "report" into 
"prepare," so that the secretary should have author- 
ity to "digest and prepare plans" but should no 
longer have authority to report them to the House, 
as had been Robert Morris's practice. Madison 
did not say that there was anything wrong about 
that practice; he said he did not believe that the 
danger apprehended by some really existed, but he 
admitted that "there is a small possibility, though 
it is but small, that an oflScer may derive a weight 
from this circumstance, and have some degree of 
influence upon the deliberations of the legislature." 
The position which Madison then occupied made his 
advice decisive, and the change of phrase was agreed 
to without a division. 

In considering the nature of the influence which 
brought about this profound alteration of the con- 
stitutional scheme, it should be noted that it was 
favored by a school of poUtical thought according 
to which the principle of the separation of powers as 
laid down by Montesquieu in his Sfirii of the Laws 
required not only that the executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches of government should be sep- 
arately constituted, but that furthermore they 
should be entirely disconnected. The only logical 
formulation of this doctrne in eighteenth-century 
constitution-making is contained in the French 
constitution of 1791, which makes it the exclusive 



^RmctioD of the natioQal legislative assembly "to 
propose and enact the laws; the King can only 
invite the legislative body to take the matter under 
consideration." Very different ia the language of 
the American Constitution as to the fimctions of 
the President. "He shall, from time to time, give 
to the Congress information of the state of the 
Union, and recommend to their consideration such 
measures as he shall judge necessaiy and expedi- 
ent." This power of executive recommendation 
was that which had been developed under the Con- 
federation by the creation of executive departments, 
which system the Constitution was expected by 
Hamilton to confirm. One of the points made by 
the opponents of the new Constitution was that it 
violated the principles of constitutional government 
as stated by Montesquieu. Logically, it is only 
fair to say that the point was well taken. The 
truth is that the framere of the Constitution were not 
animated by doctrinaire notions of government but 
by the need of practical measures to arrest the drift 
to anarchy and to establish national authority. 
The model they had in mind was the English consti- 
tution, and for theoretical exposition of it they 
looked to Blackstone's Commentaries and not to 
Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. Nor is there 
any evidence that doctrinaire opinion of the Montes- 
quieu type formed any considerable element of Anti- 
federalist opinion. The force which that possessed 



was derived from the prejudices and interests of 
local politics. Its favorite citation from Montes- 
quieu was his dictiun that "it is natural to a republic 
to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot 
long subsist." To this argument, which was urged 
by Clinton, Hamilton made a strong reply in No. 9 
of The Federalist, on "The Union as a Safeguard 
against Domestic Disturbances." It may be added 
that this particular doctrine of Montesquieu was 
strongly condemned by Jefferson in 1801, when he 
bluntly characterized it as "a falsehood." 

If Madison accepted Montesquieu's doctrine of 
the separation of the powers, his action in shutting 
out the Administration from direct access to Congresa 
with legislative proposals was logical and consistent. 
But as a matter of fact he did not accept that doc- 
trine. To refute it was one of the tasks he asamned 
in his contributions to The Federalist. In Nos. 47 
and 48 he examined at length the constitutional 
significance to be properly allowed to the doctrine 
of the separation of the powers. With a logical 
evasiveness rather characteristic of his mentality 
he did not attempt to state or analyze Montesquieu's 
own formulation of his doctrine, but, after mention- 
ing that Montesquieu derived the doctrine from his 
study of the British constitution, he remarked then : 
"Let us recur to the source from which the ma.xim 
was drawn." He then proceeded to give an account 
of the British constitution, which is really Black- 


»ne's and not Montesqxiieu's, and in that way 
Jfigured out that the principle of separation "does 
not require that the legislative, executive, and ju- 
iiciary departments should be wholly unconnected 
(vith each other." On the contrary, he argued 
Ihat, "unless these departraents be so far connected 
ud blended as to give each a constitutional control 
Over the othei-s, the degree of separation which the 
maxim requires, as essential to a free government, 
I never in practice be duly maintained." Truer 
words were never written, as the whole course of 
American politics abundantly attests. 

Why, then, did Madison violate his own principles, 
to bring about an arrangement that in effect threw 
iie new Congress back into the dirty ruts of the 
Continental Congress? This is a question that has 
bothered his biographers. Gaillard Hunt's masterly 
Life of James Madison candidly admits that "Madi- 
Faon at this period of his career often found himself 
in a position foreign to his former political habits," 
and that his course was steered by calculations of 
expediency rather than by principle. The truth of 
the matter appears to be that Madison was more 
notable for keenness of intelligence than strength 
of character. Fisher Ames, in his private corre- 
spondence at this period, whDe speaking with great 
respect of Madison's abilities, noted that he was very 
timid on any point affecting Virginia politics, "whose 
murmurs, if louder than a whisper, make Mr. 



Madison's heart quake." Hamilton had as great, 
and probably greater, antagonism to encounter in 
New York politics, but nothing could make his 
heart quake. His way of meeting opposition was to 
confront it and overthrow it by superior force of 
argument. Madison betook himself to tactics and 
cajolery. Examination of his correspondence and 
of his course in Congress at this period leaves no 
doubt that his main consideration was to please 
the home districts. With this pxirpose in view, the 
question of the site of the national capital took the 
lead over everything else in Madison's mind. Aa a 
member of the Continental Congress he had tried 
hard to defeat the selection of New York as a meet- 
ing-place, and aa a member of the new Congr^a he 
was bent upon getting away from New York as 
eoon as possible. His polities now pivoted upon that 
issue. Senator Maclay's diary notes that on the 
very day General St. Clair came out against the 
Potomac site Madison made a motion to reduce 
St. Clair's salary as governor of the Western Terri- 
tory, although previously he had favored a larger 

A man playing this sort of politics would be 
naturally unwilling to let so able and forceful a 
speaker as Hamilton reach the floor of the House if 
he could prevent it. Probably he did not act in a 
epirit of hostihty to Hamilton as a man or as an 


officer, but to Hamilton as a New Yoik politician. 
He pointed out that the way was left open for the 
Secretary of the. Treasuiy to appear before the House 
whenever it should see fit to call him, and there are 
indications that Hiamilton believed that considera- 
tions of convenience would tend to maintain the 
practice that had been developed in the Confedera- 
tion period with manifest benefit to tiie character of 
the government. His own sanguine temperament 
probably helped to mislead him in his estimate of 
the situation. At any rate he was so complete^ in 
the dark as to Madison's intentions that he assumed 
that the confidential intimacy that had continued 
throughout years of struggle for the new Constitution 
was still unbroken and that Madison still adhered 
to the principles he then professed. On the cardinal 
principle of Hamilton's financial poKcy, the assump- 
tion by the national government of the debts con- 
tracted by the States during the war^ Hamilton had 
no doubt whatever of Madison's support^ for as a 
member of the Continental Congress Madison had 
strongly advocated assmnption and during the sit- 
tings of the constitutional convention had again de- 
clared himself in favor of it. Hamilton seems to 
have had no suspicion that the violent opposition 
to assumption that had developed in Virginia had 
swimg Madison into line with it, and Madison seems 
to have been careful not to disclose his change of 


viewB. On October 12, 17S9, Hamilton wrote to 

I don't know how it was, but I took it for granted that 
you had left town earlier than I did; else I should have 
found an opportunity, after your adjournment, to con- 
verse with you on the subjects committed to me by the 
House of Representatives. It is certainly important that 
a plan as complete and as unexceptionable as possible 
should be matured by the next meeting of Confcress; and 
for this purpose it could not but be useful that there 
should be a comparison and concentration of ideas, of 
those whose duty leads them to a contemplation of the 
subject. As I lost the opportunity of a personal com- 
munication, may I ask of yoiu* friendship, to put to paper 
and send me your thoughts on such objects as may have 
occurred to you, for an addition to our revenue, and also 
as to any modifications of the public debt, which could 
be made consistent with good faith — the interest of the 
pubhc and of the creditors. 

Madison's reply to this has not been preserved. 
It must have been indefinite, for Hamilton seems still 
to have counted upon Madison's support; but when 
his plan was actually presented to Congress, Hamil- 
ton was chagrined and mortified to find that Madi- 
son was flatly opposed to every feature of it. 



Ai/THOUGH Hamilton took an active part in the 
arrangements for setting up the new government, 
he did not take office imtil near the close of the first 
session. In the creative enactments the Treasmy 
Department came last, but Washington waited 
imtil the list was complete before making any of his 
cabinet appointments, and Hamilton was the first 
to be commissioned — September 2, 1789. Then 
followed Henry Knox, as Secretary of War and of 
the Navy, September 12; Thomas Jefferson, Secre- 
tary of State; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney- 
General, September 26. Jefferson, who was then 
in France, did not assxmie the duties of his office 
imtil March 21, 1790. Besides these cabinet officers 
there was a postmaster-general, but he was then 
considered a purely business functionary who waa 
not consulted upon matters of general policy. The 
office was not raised to cabinet rank until 1829. 

Shortly after Hamilton took office the House 
resolved that "an adequate provision for the sup- 
port of the public credit should be made, and the 
Secretary of the Treasury was directed "to prepare 


■ f- 


a plan for that purpose and to report the same to 
the House at its next meeting." The House soon 
after adjourned until Januaiy, 1790. Meanwhile 
Hamilton was to organize his office, digest and for- 
mulate his plans, all of which he did with a thorough- 
ness that made his arrangements solid and durable. 
Doubtless his old commercial experience and his 
recent banking experience were now of great value 
to him. The confusion and disorder in which he 
found the Treasury Department were forthwith 
removed and a system of accounts was introduced 
that provided clearness and accuracy of statement. 
It soon had to undergo a hostile and exacting scru- 
tiny, but it passed unscathed through every test, 
and it has remained as the piermanent basis of 
treasuiy methods. 

It may be doubted whether in all the world's his- 
tory any statesman save Alexander Hamilton has 
had to cope with ao great a task with such small 
resources as he could command when he framed his 
plans to lift the nation out of bankruptcy and es- 
tablish the public credit. Default in interest upon 
the foreign loans had gone on for years, and public 
opinion — demoralized by paper emissions and peri- 
odical scaling of obhgations — had become indifferent 
to the situation. The domestic debt was enormous 
in amount and was so much beyond the value re- 
ceived for it that the feeling was wide-spread that 
there was little equity in the claims of holders. In 


every State there was an alert opposition, strong 
both in the reputation of its leaders and in the vol- 
ume of popular support, ready to jump upon any 
proposal running counter to the vulgar prejudices 
and distorted standards of the times. The member- 
ship of Congress naturally tended to reflect the clash 
of opinion going on throughout the country, and the 
risks of this situation were aggravated by the pres- 
ence and activity of experienced poKticians intent on 
forming and directing faction spirit for personal ends. 
The man who had to face this situation had no 
estate to secure his independence, and he had a 
growing family to support. The circumstances of 
his career supplied his enemies with material in 
support of their habitual contention that he was a 
social interloper and a political adventurer. In this 
respect, perhaps, he was not much worse oflf than 
Edmund Burke, in England, at the same period, 
but Burke could depend upon the stanch support 
of the rich and influential Rockingham Whig con- 
nection, which the Schuyler influence in New York 
politics could but poorly replace, for at best it was 
only a provincial and not a national influence. It 
may be doubted whether Hamilton had the unhesi- 
tating support of the Administration of which he was 
a part, in the period during which his financial poKcy 
was developed. Washington's correspondence and 
his behavior indicate that at this time he was on 
terms of greater intimacy with Madison than with 


Hamilton. According to Jefferson, Washington was 
originally more inclined to confide in him and in 
Madison than in Hamilton, and what evidence there 
is rather supports this view. It is certainly the case 
that so late as 1793, long after Madison had become 
Hamilton's open enemy, Washington proposed giv- 
ing Madison the State Department on Jefferson's 
retirement but was told that he would not accept 
it. There are indications that the relations between 
Washington and Hamilton were not then veiy cor- 
dial. It was easy for a man of Washington's mag- 
nanimity to overlook the youthful vanity and irri- 
tability with which Hamilton had behaved to him 
in the past, but his knowledge of Hainilton's touchi- 
ness doubtless affected Washington's relations with 
him. Add to all these disabling circumstances the 
fact that Hamilton was not allowed to explain 
and defend his plans in the presence of the body 
that was to pass judgment upon them, and then 
could any statesman be worse situated for accom- 
plishing designs intended for nothing less than 
creating a nation? 

When Congress again met the first day was con- 
sumed by the opening exercises. On the next day 
a letter from Hamilton was read in the House stat- 
ing that he had prepared a plan in response to the 
resolution of the previous session and was ready to 
report the same to the House when they should be 
pleased to receive it. This announcement at once 

recomm|:ndations defeated 227 

renewed the issue^that had been fought over in the 
previous session. '.Gerry was on his feet at once with 
a motion that the report should be made in writing. 
This brought forth some earnest appeals that the 
Secretary be allowed the means of making a full 
communication of his ideas. Boudinot, of New 
Jersey, "hoped that the Secretary of the Treasury 
might ^be permitted to make his report in person, 
in order to answer such inquiries as the members 
might be disposed to make, for it was a justifiable 
surmise that gentlemen would not be able to com- 
prehend so intricate a subject without oral illustra- 
tions." Benson, of New York, contended that since 
the resolution of Congress had directed the Secre- 
tary to make a report, it was left to his discretion 
to "make it in the manner for which he is prepared." 
Gerry, who was as adroit as he was imscrupulous, 
turned this argument to the advantage of his side 
by arguing that the first step was to get from the 
Secretary the report called for by the resolution. 
That done, then it might be in order "to give him 
the right to lay before them his explanations, if he 
thinks explanations necessary." Acceptance of this 
view was facilitated by a feeling in the House that it 
might be well to have a detailed written statement 
for studious examination. Hence Ames, of Massa- 
chusetts, who had formerly strongly championed the 
personal appearance of the Secretary, now desired 
that the Secretary 's commimications be first put in 


writing, since "in this shape they would obtain a 
degree of permanency favorable to the responsibility 
of the officer, while, at the same time, they would 
be less liable to be misunderstood." The result of 
the discussion was that the motion calling for a 
written report was adopted without a division; 
but the intimation that the Secretary might be al- 
lowed a hearing later on was never acted upon. 
Having served its purpose it was dropped, and the 
Secretary was never accorded an opportunity to 
make explanations or reply to objections. 

It would seem that Hamilton had ori^ally pre- 
pared for an oral address, in which case — as we know 
from his papers — it was his practice to make only a 
skeleton brief of the points of his argument. This 
brief he had now to expand into a written statement, 
and five days elapsed before it was laid before the 
House. The body of the report contains over 20,000 
words of terse argument, and it was accompanied 
by schedules of greater total length. Doubtless the 
schedules were in readiness at the time Hamilton 
made his offer of personal appearance. The short 
time he took to put his views in writing is one of the 
many instances of the extraordinary facihty with 
which he used his pen. This facihty was founded 
upon his habit of thorough analysis of his subject 
before attempting any presentation of his views. 
His power of mental concentration was so great as 
to make him for the time oblivious to his surround- 

A letter from General Schuyler to his daugh- 
ter, Mrs. Hamilton, gives an amusing instance of 
this, at the veiy time Hamilton was framing his 
financial plans. Writing in October, 1789, Schuyler 
tells how a gentleman was seen walking about, 
"apparently in deep contemplation, and his lips 
moving as rapidly as if he was in conversation with 
some person," and how a shopkeeper who did not 
know who he was refused to change a bill for him for 
fear of being involved in the affairs of a person who 
seemed to be not quite right mentally. "Pray, 
ask my Hamilton," wrote Schuyler, "if he can't 
guess who the gentleman was." 

The incident related by Schuyler was exceptional. 
Hamilton's ordinary practice was to retire to his 
study, where he would be served with coffee, and then 
he would put his mind on his task with steady ap- 
plication. When his opinion had been formed by 
deep study, expression of it then proceeded in a 
rapid and orderly manner. He wrote carefully, 
forming every letter distinctly, so that his manuscript 
is always easily legible, and it is remarkably free 
from corrections. The clearness of his style came 
from the clearness of his thought, and not from any 
process of Uterary elaboration. So it was that his 
report of January 9, 1790, upon the pubhc credit, 
whose clearness, brilliancy, and power now strike 
with admiration every one who reads it, was proba- 
bly written as rapidly as pen could move over paper. 


Broad as is the range of this report and lofty its 
aims, the policy it embodies ia plain and simple — 
the exact and punctual fulfilment of obligations. 
"States, like individuals, who observe their engage- 
ments are respected and trusted; while the reverse 
is the fate of those who pursue an opposite conduct." 
Such a complicated variety of mischiefs proceed 
from neglect of the ma.xuns that uphold public 
credit that "on their due observance at the present 
juncture, materially depends . . . the individual and 
aggregate prosperity of the citizens of the United 
States; their reUef from the embarrassments they 
now experience; their character as a people; the 
cause of good government." 

With a high confidence that was triumphantly 
vindicated by the results of his measures, but which 
at the time there was little in the actual situation 
to Justify, Hamilton declared: 

The most enlightened friends of good government are 
those whose expectations are the highest. To justify and 
preserve their confidence; to promote the increasing re- 
spectability of the American name; to answer the calls 
of justice; to restore landed property to its due value; to 
furnish new resources, both to agriculture and commerce; 
to cement more closely the union of the States; to add to 
their security against foreign attack; to establish public 
order on the basis of an upright and liberal policy; — ^these 
are the great and invaluable ends to be secured by a proper 
and adequate provision, at the present period, for the 
support of public credit. 


^f Proceeding to details of policy, he remarked that 
"the Secretaiy has too much deference for the opin- 
ions of every part of the community, not to have 
observed one, which has more than once made its 
appearance in the public prints, and which is occa- 
sionally to be met with in conversation. It involves 
this question: 'Whether a discrimination ought cot ' 
to be made between original holders of public 
securities, and present possessors by purchase.'" 
He then put the case in favor of discrimination as 
strongly as possible. "In favor of this scheme, it is 
alleged that it would be unreasonable to pay twenty 
shillings in the pound to one who had not given 
more for it than three or four. And it is added, 
that it would be hard to aggravate the misfortune 
of the first owner, who probably through necessity, 
parted with his property at so great a loss, by 
obhging him to contribute to the profit of the per- ' 
son who had speculated on his distresses." 

The most rabid advocate of discrimination could 
not have stated his case with more vigor. Hamil- 
ton then stated his own position with equal positive- 
ness. "The Secretary, after the most mature re- 
flection on the force of this argument, is induced to 
reject the doctrine it contains, as equally unjust and 
impolitic; as highly injurious, even to the original 
holders of public securities; as ruinous to public 
credit." He proceeded to show in detail why this 
was 80, supporting his reasoning with particular illuB- 


trations. He urged that any attempt at discriminar 
tion would be replete with absurd as well as inequi- 
table consequences. "That the case of those who 
parted with their securities from necessity is a hard 
one, cannot be denied. But whatever complaint of 
injury, or claim of redress they may have, respects 
the Government solely. They have not only noth- 
ing to object to the persons who relieved their neces- 
sities, by giving them the current price of their prop- 
erty, but they are even imder an implied condition 
to contribute to the reimbursement of those persons. 
They knew that by the terms of the contract with 
themselves, the public were bound to pay those to 
whom they should convey their title the sums stip- 
ulated to be paid to them; and that, as citizens 
of the United States, they were to bear their pro- 
portion of the contribution for that purpose. This, 
by the act of assignment, they tacitly engaged to do; 
and, if they had an option, they could not, with 
integrity or good faith, refuse to do it, without the 
consent of those to whom they sold.'' He pointed 
out that the purchaser "ought to reap the benefit 
of his hazard — sl hazard which was far from incon- 
siderable, and which, perhaps, turned on little less 
than a revolution in government.'' And it was not 
necessarily the case that all original holders sold 
through necessity. Some might have done so to raise 
money for profitable investment, and were better 
oflf than they would be if they had retained their 



securities for eventual redemption. How should 
these different classes be discriminated from each 
other ? Discrimination, once admitted, '' would oper- 
ate a diminution of the value of stock in the hands 
of the first as well as of eveiy other holder/' as 
without security of transfer no one could tell ex- 
actly what there was to buy or sell, and this imcer- 
tainty would be destructive of the availability of 
public stocks for piuposes of conamercial accommo- 
dation and currency supply. 

It is a marked instance of Hamilton's habit of 
getting down to fimdamental principles in framing a 
case that he examined at length the equities of the 
situation before citing the solemn pledges of Congress 
to redeem the public obligations at their face value 
without any attempt to discriminate between dif- 
ferent classes of creditors. These pledges alone 
should have sufficed to settle the matter without 
further discussion, but it soon appeared that regard 
for public faith was so weak in Congress that there 
was real need for the argument that it pays to be 

Another matter to which Hamilton gave detailed 
consideration was assumption by the nation of the 
debts contracted by the States during the war. 
Inasmuch as the debts had been contracted for the 
conmion cause of independence it properly followed 
that they should form a common charge upon the 
national resources, but so strong were particularist 


tendencies that this view was not readily accepted, 
and in this matter, too, Hamilton felt constrained 
to press considerations of particular advantage 
even from the narrow view of State interest. "If 
all the public creditors," he observed, "receive their 
dues from one source, distributed with an equal hand, 
their interest will be the same. And having the 
same interests, they will unite in the support of 
the fiscal arrangements of the Government — as 
these, too, can be made with more convenience 
where there is no competition. These circum- 
stances combined, will ensure to the revenue laws 
a more ready and satisfactory execution. If, on the 
contrary, there are distinct provisions, there will be 
distinct interests, drawing different ways. That 
union and concert of views among the creditors, 
which in every Government is of great importance 
to their security, and to that of public credit, will 
not only not exist, but will be likely to give place to 
mutual jealousy and opposition. And from this 
cause, the operation of the systems which may be 
adopted, both by the particular States and by the 
Union, with relation to their respective debts, will 
be in danger of being counteracted." 

Here we have, as it were in a nutshell, an explana- 
tion of the fact that the American Constitution actu- 
ally marched, despite the fatal tendency of written 
constitutions to remain mere inert paper schemes. 
The actual constitution of a country is always the 


Ktual distribution of political power. The American 
lonstitution succeeded because Hamilton's manage- 
nent accomplished such a distribution of power as 
*to secure for the Union such a general attachment 
of interests as to counteract particularist tendencies. 
Hamilton computed the amount of the foreign 
debt to be, principal and arrears, $11,710,378.62; 
the domestic debt, including that of the States, 
over $42,000,000— a total of over $54,000,000, with 
an annual interest charge of $4,587,445, apparently 
an intolerable burden for a thinly popxdated country 
exhausted by seven years of war. Neverthdess, 
Hamilton refused to admit that "such a provision 
would exceed the abilities of the country," but he 
was "clearly of the opinion that to make it would 
require the extension of taxation to a degree and to 
objects which the true interest of the public creditors 
forbids." He therefore favored a composition, in 
which there should be strict adherence to the prin- 
ciple "that no change in the rights of its creditors 
ought to be attempted without their voluntary 
consent; and that this consent ought to be voluntary 
in fact as well as in name. . . . Eveiy proposal 
of a change ought to be in the shape of an appeal 
to their reason and to their interest, not to their 
He then went into details of a funding 
1 which various options were offered to the 
ditors, including land grants in part payment and 
inversion in whole or in part into annuities, several 



kinds of which were offered. There was an intricacy 
in his plans which might not have been a hindrance 
to them could he have been present to reply to 
questions and explain details, but which in the actual 
circumstances was a clog, and eventually the scheme 
had to be simplified to bring it within reach of Con- 
gressional understanding. He submitted estimates 
how the various plans of composition would work 
out in practice, and he concluded that an annual 
revenue of 52,239,163.09 would enable the Govern- 
ment to meet its interest obligations. To provide 
this amount, as well as the sum necessary to defray 
the current expenses of the Government, he sub- 
mitted in particular detail a scheme of taxation 
applying mainly to wines, distilled spirits, teas, and 

Although when now examined under the instruc- 
tions of histoiy, Hamilton's plans make a deep im- 
pression of grand statesmanship, many members of 
the Congress to which they were submitted regarded 
them as wild and visionary. Senator Maclay, of 
Pennsylvania, in his private diary — whose publica- 
tion in our own times casts many instructive side- 
lights upon the situation with which Hamilton had 
to deal — characterized the whole scheme as "a 
moniunent of political absurdity." In his opinion 
Hamilton had "a very boyish, giddy manner, and 
Scotch-Irish people could well call him a 'skite.'" 
Hamilton's supporters figure in the diary as hia 


"gladiators" and as "a corrupt squadron." Jack* 
son, of Georgia, regarded it as sufficient evidence of 
the folly of Hamilton's proposals that to adopt them 
would create a fimded debt, the inevitable effect of 
which woiild be national decay. He pointed to 
Ekigland as "a melancholy instance of the ruin at- 
tending such engagements." If it were asked how 
otherwise the pubhc indebtedness could be provided 
for, the answer was ready — ^by repudiation, in whole 
or in part. livermore, of New Hampshire, admitted 
that the foreign debt should be acknowledged, but 
the domestic debt was not a fair obligation, since it 
was "for depreciated paper, or services done at ex- 
orbitant rates, or for goods and provisions supplied 
at more than their real worth, by those who received 
all the benefits arising from our change of condi- 
tion." Page, of Virginia, argued that "our citizens 
were deeply interested, and, I believe, if they were 
never to get a farthing for what is owing to them for 
their services, they would be well paid; they have 
gained what they aimed at; they have secured their 
liberties and their laws." When such argument was 
confronted with the solenm pledges of the Conti- 
nental Congress that the obligations contracted 
would be discharged at their face value, it was ex- 
plained by Livermore that this was merely for ef- 
fect — ^that it was " done on a principle of policy, in 
order to prevent the rapid depreciation which was 
taking place," and that those who would now take 


advantage of the circumstance were not animated 
by a spirit of patriotism but were merely a set of 

Repudiation did not obtain support enough to 
make it really formidable, and the only dangerous 
attempt to impair the obligation of contracts took 
the form of a movement in favor of discrimination. 
It received the powerful championship of Madison, 
who in his efforts to adjust his behavior to the 
political situation in his State, appears now to have 
discarded the principles he used to profess. In a 
series of elaborate speeches he argued that present 
holders should be allowed only the highest market 
price previously recorded, the residue to go to the 
original holders. He stuck to this in the face of 
statements of its impracticability which he made no 
attempt to refute. Boudinot, of New Jersey, pointed 
out that great quantities of certificates of indebted- 
ness had been originally issued to government clerks 
who distributed them among those who furnished 
supplies to the government, or who performed ser- 
vices entitling them to pay. He mentioned that he 
himself appeared on the record as original holder 
in cases wherein he had really acted for his neigh- 
bors, to relieve them of the trouble of personal ap- 
pearance. Madison's proposal would therefore in- 
vest him with a legal title to property which actually 
belonged to others. Madison answered that "all 

K^t be V 


Ithat he wished was that the claims of the original 
holdera, not less than those of the actual holdere, 
ehoiJd be fairly examined and justly decided," 
and there he rested, avoiding particulars. He was, 
however, somewhat embarrassed by a home thrust 
from Benson, of New York, who put the question 
whether if Madison had sold a certificate he would 
now claim part of the value he had transferred. "I 
ask," said Benson, "whether he would take ad- 
vantage of the law against me." Madison would 
not give a direct answer, but said that everything 
would depend upon the cirumstances of any par- 
ticular case, and that circumstances were conceivar 
ble in which the most tender conscience need not 
refrain from taking the benefit of what the Govern- 
ment had determined. 

The debate on Madison's proposal of discrimina- 
tion occupied eleven days, during which it steadily 
lost ground, and when the issue came to a vote it 
was defeated in the House by the crushing vote of 
thirty-six to thirteen. The struggle now shifted 
to the assumption of State debts. The character of 
the debate shows how much the discussion suffered 
from the lack of the presence of the Seeretaiy to 
state his case and define the issue. There is little 
evidence that the argument made in his report re- 
eived any real consideration. The debate dragged 
■long, including much that was fictitious or iirel- 



evant, and it is plain that the usual point of 
view was merely that of local interest. Members 
would figure how much their States would have to 
pay as their share of the debt, and upon that con- 
Bideration alone would reach conclusions as to how 
the States individually stood to win or lose by the 
transaction, as if they were so many different coun- 
tries and not members of the same nation. Liver- 
more, of New Hampshire, a State which had the 
luck to lie outside the field of actual warfare, de- 
clared: " I conceive that the debt of South Carolina, 
or Massachusetts, or an individual, has nothing to 
do with our deliberations. If they have involved 
themselves in debt, it is their misfortime, and they 
must extricate themselves as well as they can." 
Stone, of Maryland, another State that lay outside 
the track of war, admonished the war-debt States 
that they should "nobly bear the burthens" of 
debts which had been contracted in military efforts 
that were for the advantage of all the States. Such 
selfish particularism received the strong champion- 
ship of Madison, who had on this issue made a 
complete change of front in deference to the opposi- 
tion to assumption which had been developed in 
Virginia, on the supposition that it meant a heavy 
bill for that large State to pay on account of other 
States. The combination against assumption waa 
too strong for its advocates to overcome, and on 


April 12; 1790; the bill was defeated outright in 
the House, thirty-one to twenty-one. It was a 
deadly blow to Hamilton's plans, as the assumption 
of the State debts by the nation was an essential 
feature of his plans for establishing national union. 



The defeat of the Assumption Bill did not discour- 
age Hamilton. It was only one more of the many 
rebuifs and disappointments he had met with in his 
years of effort to establish national authority. He 
had recently dealt with a more difficult situation in 
the New York Convention than that which now con- 
fronted him in Congress, and he now energetically 
applied himself to that situation, using pressure of 
interest to move those who could not be stirred by 
reason. His own literary remains furnish no details 
of his activity at this period, and such glimpses aa 
one gets of it in the records are afforded mainly 
through notice of it taken by his opponents. 

It is plain that the leverage which Hamilton now 
brought to bear was the intense interest felt in Con- 
gress over the site of the national capital. With 
many members that appears to have been a con- 
sideration above everything else in importance. 
It became the prominent topic in Madison's corre- 
spondence as soon as the Constitution was adopted. 
Legislative bargaining about it started as soon as 
Congress met. On April 26, 1789, before Wash- 
ington had been installed in office, Maclay noted a 



■meeting "to concert some measures for the removal 
of Congress." Thereafter notices of attempted 
bargains frequently appear in his diary, and after 
the defeat of the Assumption Bill there are refer- 
ences to Hamilton's participation. An entry of 
June 14, 1790, ascribes to Robert Morris the state- 
ment that "Hamilton said he wanted one vote in 
the Senate and five in the House of Representatives; 
that he was wilhng and would agree to place the 
permanent residence of Congress at Germantown or 
Falls of the Delaware [Trenton], if he (Morris) would 
proems him those votes." But the Pennsylvania 
delegation was hopelessly divided between the Delar 
ware and the Susquehanna claimants for the site, 
and Hamilton had to seek elsewhere for the votes 
he needed. He eventually effected the winning 
combination through support drawn from what at 
the start seemed the least promising quarter — the 
Virginia delegation — and, what seems stranger still, 
in view of their subsequent relations, he did this by 
the aid of Thomas Jefferson. 

While the movement was going on that resulted 
in the meeting of the Philadelphia convention Jef- 
ferson was in France, where he was left in a pre- 
carious situation by the bankruptcy of the Conti- 
nental Congress. In these circumstances he formed 
such strong national principles that he argued that 
"when any one State in the American union re- 
fusee obedience to the Confederation by which they 


have bound themselves, the rest have a natural 
right to compel them to obedience." ' He went so 
far as to say: "There never will be money in the 
treaauiy till the Confederacy shows its teeth. The 
States must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by 
some one of them." * When he took the post of 
Secretary of State under Washington he began 
his duties with high views of authority. Maclay 
describes a visit of Jefferson to the Senate chamber 
to advise a lump appropriation for the diplomatic 
service to be apportioned according to the discre- 
tion of the President. From Jefferson's corre- 
spondence at the time of the defeat of the Assump- 
tion Bill, it appears that he feared that the effect 
would be disastrous. He wrote to James Monroe, 
June 20, 1790, that, unless the measures of the Ad- 
ministration were adopted, "our credit will burst 
and vanish, and the States separate to take care 
everyone of Itself." The South Carolina delegation 
had given plain notice that that was what that 
State would have to do if the war debt it had con- 
tracted was not assumed by the general government. 
Unless this were done all the war-ravaged States 
would lose fay staying in the Union, since that woxdd 
withdraw from their control revenue resources which 
they would otherwise possess. Jefferson saw that, 
if States loaded with debt by the war were left in 

' Jeffereon to De Meusnier, Janusry 24, 1786. 
* Jeffersoa to Monroe, Auguat II, 1786, 



If-Uie lurch to save themselves as best they could, 
the Union would promptly break up. Hamilton 
availed himself of these anxieties to make a baigain 
by which Jefferson was to get enough Southern votea 
to cany assumption in return for enough votes from 
Hamilton's adherents to select the Potomac site for 
the national capital. JefFeraon himself may have 
proposed the deal. He certainly outlined its fea- 
tures in his letter to Monroe and he personally at- 
tended to the actual negotiation. The terms were 
settled at a dinner given by Jefferson to which he 
invited Madison and Hamilton. As a sop to the 
Pennsylvania delegation it was decided that the 
national capital should be removed to Philadelphia 
r a stay of ten years, after which it should be on 
3 eastern side of the Potomac River in a district 
miles square to be selected by the President 
within certain bounds. In consideration of Hamil- 
ton's support of this arrangement Jefferson and 
Madison agreed to facihtate the passage of the 
Assumption Bill. The Virginians got the goods 
first, but the bargain was loyally fulfilled on both 
sides. The Residence Act was approved July 16, 
1790; the funding and assumption measures, now 
combined in one bill, became law on August 4. It 
was a narrower and rigider scheme than was first 
proposed by Hamilton. The changes made did not 
improve the measure, but Hamilton had to put up 
with them on the principle that half a loaf is better 



than no bread. Although a party to the bargain, 
Madison could not himself reverse his attitude on 
the issue, and his vote was recorded against assump- 
tion, but matters were arranged so that two Vir- 
ginia members from Potomac districts changed 
tiieir votes, enough to cany assumption by thirty- 
two ayes to twenty-nine nays. 

The compromise upon the Assumption Bill not 
only ended a crisis which threatened to wreck na^ 
tional authority at the outset, but it also produced 
a receptive disposition in Congress of which Hamil- 
ton availed himself for a series of great measures. 
On December 14, 1790, he offered his plan for es- 
tablishing a national bank, submitted as a further 
compliance with the order of the House requiring 
him to report plans for restoring the public credit. 
Here again he had to combat prejudices, which he 
instanced and considered in detail, such as that banks 
"serve to increase usmy, tend to prevent other 
kinds of lending, furnish temptations to overtrading, 
afford aid to ignorant adventurers who disturb the 
natural and beneficial course of trade, give to bank- 
rupt and fraudulent traders a fictitious credit which 
enables them to maintain false appearances and to 
extend their impositions, and that they have a 
tendency to banish gold and silver from the coun- 
try." All these accusations are examined with a 
thoroughness that makes the report a masterly 
treatise upon the functions of banks. Such waa the 

■iffect of the repi 



ffect of the report that the billj-,incorporatmg the 
Bank of the United States had rather an easy pas- 
sage through Congress. It originated in the Senate 
and was reported to the House from the committee 
of the whole, without amendment. But when the 
question was on the passage of the biU Madison 
opposed it on the ground that the Constitution did 
not expressly authorize Congress to grant charters, 
and that to assume such power by imphcation woidd 
"go to the subversion of every power whatever in 
the several States." Madison's argument had so 
little effect that the report preserved in the Anncds 
of Congress notes that "the House discovering an 
impatience to have the main question put," the yeas 
and nays were then taken and the vote was thirty- 
nine to twenty in favor of the bill. 

When the act reached Washington for his approval 
both the Virginia members of the Cabinet — Ran- 
dolph, the Attorney-General, and Jefferson, the Sec- 
retary of State — ^took Madison's position that the 
Constitution did not warrant such an enactment. 
Washington seems to have been moved by this ad- 
vice, for he requested Madison to prepare a veto 
message for him. But on February 16, while Madi- 
son was at work upon it, Washington referred the 
case to Hamilton with the request that he would 
consider the objections raised and give hia opinion 
upon them. Madison handed in his draft of a veto 
message on the 21st. On the 23d Hamilton submit- 


ted his famous "Opinion as to the Constitutionality 
of the Bank of the United States," prepared in just 
one week. It is safe to say that there is no other 
instance in which a great monument of jurisprudence 
was so rapidly erected. In his letter of transmission 
Hamilton remarked that the opinion had "occupied 
him the greatest part of last night." But the opin- 
ion itself bears no mark of haste. Terse in diction 
and concise in method, it is so complete in its analj^ 
that it is over 11,000 words in length, sustained in 
power, and solid in argument throughout. In it 
Hamilton developed the doctrine of impUed powers, 
which was later adopted by the Supreme Court 
and is now generally admitted to be an essential 
incident of genuine authority. This doctrine was 
thus stated by Hamilton, the italics being his own: 

Now it appears to the Secretary of the Treasury that 
this general principle is inherent in the very definition of 
government, and essential to every step of the progress to 
be made by that of the United States, namely; That every 
power vested in a government is in its natm^ sovereign, 
and includes, hy force of the term, a, right to employ all the 
meajts requisite and fairly -applicable 'to the attaimnent 
of the ends of such power, and which are not precluded 
by restrictions and exceptions specified in the Conatitu- 
tion, or not immoral, or not contrary to the essential emd> 
of political society. 

He proceeded to support this proposition by copi- 
ous instances, Iai;gely of a practical nature, showing 


P that without such a principle of conduct " the United 
States would furnish the singular spectacle of a 
political society without sovereignty, or of a people 
govtmed, without government." The cogency of 
Hamilton's argument was eventually shown by the 
experience of his principal opponents — Jefferson 
and Madison — during their terms as President. 
Stress of practical necessity forced them to Hamil- 
ton's position after they had caused immense mis- 
chief to their country as well as great annoyance to 
themselves by their opposition to it. 

Hamilton's argument was so convincing to Wash- 
ington, after carefid examination, that he rejected 
the advice of Randolph, Jefferson, and Madison, 
and signed the bill. The principles laid down by 
Hamilton thereafter guided Washington's admin- 
istration. Although Washington was still pressed 
with strict-construction arguments he ceased to pay 
much attention to them. When Jefferson argued at 
a cabinet meeting that there was no constitutional 
authority for establishing a military academy, Wash- 
ington cut short the discussion by saying that he 
would recommend such action to Congress and "let 
them decide for themselves whether the Constitu- 
tion authorized it or not." 

On January 28, 1791, Hamilton sent to the House 
a report on the establishment of a mint. He began 
with a powerful statement of the variety and dis- 
order of the existing circulating medium, a medley 

<tf foreign coins ha\'lng no fixed and uniform stand- 
ard of value. He observed: 

In order to a right judgment of what ought to be done, 
the following particulars require to be discussed: 

1st. \Vhat ought to be the nature of the money unit of 
the United States? 

2d. What the proportion between gold and alver, if 
coins of both metals are to be established? 

3d. What the proportion and composition of allt^ in 
each kind? 

4th. Whether the expense of coinage shall be defrayed 
by the Government, or out of the material itself? 

5th. What shall be the number, denominations, sizes, 
and devices of the coins? 

6th. Whether foreign coins shall be permitted to be 
current or not; if the former, at what rate, and for what 

As might be expected from such an exhaxxstive 
claBsifieation, the report is a complete dissertation 
upon coinage problems. It is a striking example of 
Hamilton's habit of going to the bottom of every 
subject before stating his conclusions, for he did not 
have any great innovation to recommend. His 
plan virtually took the situation as he found it and 
made the best of it. The English pound, although 
still nominally the unit of account, had been prac- 
tically superseded by the Spanish dollar, but coins 
of that denomination had no settled or standard 
value. Hamilton took the prevailing rating of the 
dollar as the actual money unit, disregarding the 



old value of the dollar as fixed by Spanish law, with 
the express purpose of keeping unimpaired existing 
contracts based upon the current rating of the dollar. 
So likewise he retained both gold and silver aa full 
legal tender and fixed a ratio corresponding to the 
commercial ratio. Howeverj he remarked, with a 
prescience since abundantly attested by events: 
"As long as gold either from its intiinsic superiority 
as a metal, from its greater rarity, or from the prej- 
udices of mankind, retains so considerable a pre- 
eminence in value over silver, as it has hitherto had, 
a natural consequence of this seems to be that its 
condition will be more stationary. The revolutions, 
therefore, which may take place in the comparative 
value of gold and silver, will be changes in the state 
of the latter, rather than in that of the former." 
As regards the scale of value in the coinage, he 
Kommended the decimal system, which in fact had 
!en adopted by the Continental Congress on August 
, 1786, although it had not gone into effect. Jef- 
Rerson was strongly in favor of this system, which 
mdeed met with quite general acceptance. As to 
[devices upon the coins, Hamilton contented himself 
■with remarking that they "are far from being mat- 
i of indifference, as they may be made the ve- 
liieles of useful impressions." He did not make any 
particular recommendations under this head in hia 
report, but the bill as passed by the Senate contained 
i provision that coins should bear a representation 


of the head of the President during whoee adimiii»- 
tration they were issued, and it is presumable that 
this was in accord mth Hamilton's idea. This pn> 
vision was energetically attacked in the House as a 
servile imitation of the practice of monarchies. It 
was in vain pointed out that the House amendment 
striking out this instruction " left the matter entirely 
to the judgment of the artist, who may form such an 
emblem as suits his fancy." The amendment was 
carried by twenty-six yeas to twenty-two nays, 
Madison voting in the affinnative, and, although the 
Senate was disposed to insist upon the clause, it 
finally had to submit to the will of the House, The 
result is the queer, totemistic character of the de- 
signs of American coinage. The heads of PresidentB 
and other public men now appear in profusion upon 
the note issues of the United States, but not according 
to any settled plan, and Hamilton's sensible idea of 
making the devices "vehicles of useful impressions" 
has yet to be utilized. It cannot be doubted that 
devices corresponding to Presidential terms of oflBce 
would be a valuable source of historical instruction, 
whereas the existing system is one of sheer caprice. 

On December 5, 1791, Hamilton sent to the 
HoiKe his famous report on manufactiu'w, references 
to which have been continual in the tariff contro- 
versies that form so great a part of the political his- 
tory of the United States. It is generally claimed 
to be a vindication of the protective policy, and so 


* it is, in consideration of the actual circumstances in 
which the United States was placed, but at the same 
time no stronger statement can be found of the 
argument in favor of free trade than that which 
the report presents at the outset. Hamilton re- 
marked that the opponents of protection might rea- 
son as foUows; 

To endeavor, by the extraordinary patronsge of gov- 
ernment, to accelerate the growth of manufactures, is, in 
fact, to endeavor, by force and art, to transfer the natural 
current of industry from a more to a less beneficial chan- 
nel. Whatever has such a tendency, must necessarily be 
unwise; indeed, it can hardly ever be wise in a govern- 
ment to attempt to give a direction to the industry of its 
^tizens. This, under the quicksighted guidance of pri- 
icyate interest, wiU, if left to itself, infallibly find its own 
^ way to the most profitable employment; and it is by such 
naployment that the public prosperity will be most effec- 
lUy promoted. To leave industry to itself, therefore, 
B in almost every case, the soundest as well as the simplest 

* policy, ... If, contrary to the natural course erf things, 
an unseasonable and premature spring can be given to 
certain fabrics, by heavy duties, prohibitions, bounties, 
or by other forced expedients, this will be to sacrifice the 
interests of the community to those of particular classes. 
Besides the misdirection of labor, a virtual monopoly will 

—be given to the persons employed on such fabrics; and an 
ihancement of price, the inevitable consequence of every 
lonopoly, must be defrayed at the expense of the other 
s of the society. It is far preferable, that those per- 
) should be engaged in the cultivation of the earth, 
i that we should procure, in exchange for its produc- 


tions, the commodities with which foreigners are able to 
supply us in greater perfection, and upon better terms, 

Hamilton expressed much ^Tnpathy with this 
opinion. He observed: "If the system of perfect 
liberty to industry and commerce were the prevail- 
ing system of nations, the arguments which dissuade 
a country, in the predicament of the United States, 
from the zealous pursuit of manufactures, would 
doubtless have great force. It will not be affirmed 
that they might not be pennitted, with few excep- 
tions, to serve as a rule of national conduct. In 
such a state of things, each country would have the 
full benefit of its pecuhar advantages to compensate 
for its deficiencies or disadvantages. If one nation 
were in a condition to supply manufactured articles 
on better terms than another, that other might find 
an abimdant indemnification in a superior capacity 
to furnish the produce of the soil. And a free ex- 
change, mutually beneficial, of the commodities 
which each was able to supply, on the best tenns, 
might be cairied on between them, supporting in 
full vigor the industry of each." 
But no such ideal situation existed. "The regu- 
! lations of several coimtries, with which we have the 
1 most extensive intercourse, throw serious obstruc- 
■, tions in the way of the principal staples of the United 
, Statra. , . . Remarks of this kind are not made in 
I the spirit of complaint. It is for the nations whose 


lations are alluded to, to judge for themselves, 
' whether by aiming at too much they do not lose 
more than they gain. It is for the United States 
to consider by what means they can render them- 
selves least dependent on the combinations, right 
or wrong, of foreign policy. ... If Europe will i 
not take from us the products of our soil, upon terms / 
consistent with our interest, the natural remedy is I 
to contract, as fast as possible, our wants of her." 

Having thus made clear the grounds of the na- 
tional policy he recommended, he proceeded to dis- 
cuss its economic basis. He first considered the 
sources of the wealth of nations, the effects of diver- 
sification of industry, and the social consequences; 
next came a detailed examination of the resources 
of the United States, and the particular means by 
which they might be developed. He urged: "Not 
onJy the wealth, but the independence and security 
of a country, appear to be materially connected with j 
1 the prosperity of manufactures. Every nation, with / 
wfk view to those great objects, ought to endeavor to 
■possess within itself all the essentials of national 
Igupply. These comprise the means of aubsistence, 
|habitation, clothing, and defence. The possession 
f these is necessary to the perfection of the body 
■politic; to the safety as well as to the welfare of the 
Jflociety. The want of cither is the want of an im- 
portant organ of political life and motion; and in the 
t various crises which await a state, it must severely 


feel the effects of any auch deficiency." Hjstoiy 
has given impressive testimony to the justice of these 

The report, although extensive in its scope, has 
such conciseness and unity that it is impossible to 
offer any summary that can do it justice. In it 
Hamilton's genius shines vdth a brilhancy that 
places it alongside the report on the public credit 
in greatness of statesmanship. If it had appeared 
as a scholastic treatise instead of as a pubUc docu- 
ment, it would figure as a classic of poUtical economy, 
produced at a time when that science was almost 
inchoate. Its foundations had indeed been securely 
laid by Adam Smith, the first edition of whose 
Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, but its influence 
was not manifested in English politics until 1792, 
when Pitt avowed his acceptance of its principles. 
Hamilton appreciated the work from the first, and 
he is known to have written an extended commen- 
tary upon it some time in 1783, during his first 
term as a member of the Continental Congress, 
but this is among the many Hamilton papers that 
have been lost. In one place in the report on manu- 
factures he quoted a passage from Adam Smith 
on the economic reactions of transportation facilities. 
But there is no resemblance between the two works 
in style and method. Hamilton moved on his own 
lines and his report is the product of his own thou^t. 
In some measure it might even be described as a 



1^ rejoinder to Smith, the weight of whose argument, 
as is well known, was in favor of free trade. This 
Hamilton doubtless had in mind when he observed : 
"Most general theories, however, admit of numerous 
exceptions, and there are few, if any, of the poHtical 
kind, which do not blend a considerable portion of 
error with the truths they inculcate." Smith admit- 
ted that particular considerations might traverse the 
general principles he advocated, as, for instance, after 
condemning the Navigation Act as adverse to the 
national prosperity, he abruptly remarked: "As de- 
fence, however, is of much more importance than 
opulence, the act of navigation is, perhaps, the wis- 
est of all the commercial regulations of England." 
This consideration which Smith dismisses with curt 
mention is drawn out at length with great power in 

^ Hamilton's report, not merely as concerns navigar 
tion, but in respect of the whole subject of national 
policy. But at the same time it should be ob- 
served that Hamilton's dissent from the principles 
of free trade was not based upon rejection of them 
\_m the abstract. His point was that the statesman 
5 to deal with things as they are and not as they 
lOUght to be. His protective policy is connected 
t-with particular needs and circumstances, and is 
Ihence no hard-and-fast rule, but is subject to modi- 
fication as needs and circumstances change. 

Although the policy reconmiended in this report 
) since become a perennial source of controversy 


in American politics, it did not excite active oppo- 
sition when it was presented. Indeed, that policy 
had already been adopted by Congress, although 
more as a result of casual drift than of deliberate 
purpose. Before Hamilton took office a tariff act 
had been passed, with a preamble that included 
"the encouragement and protection of manufac- 
tures" in its statement of purpose. The enactment 
was prompted by the immediate need of revenue, 
but Madison, who had charge of the bill, admitted 
amendments of an avowedly protectionist character. 
The series of great state papers that have been 
described were all transmitted to the First Congress, 
with the exception of the report on manufactures, 
which waa sent in at the opening of the first session 
of the Second Congress. The measures devised 
by Hamilton established the public credit upon such 
solid foundations that it was able to sustain shocks 
from incompetent management after his retirement 
that would otherwise have been fatal. There is 
no greater illustration of the proverb that republics 
are always ungrateful than the return made to him 
for his splendid services. He was subjected to fero- 
cious persecution, pursued with untiring malignity, 
and every art of calumny was employed to load his 
name with obloquy, with such success as still to 
give color to our political hterature. He met eveiy 
attack with dauntless courage and triumphant en- 
ergy, and he left the public service not because he 


was overcome but because he wa^ starved out. It is 
impossible to find in all histoiy any other statesman 
who accomplished so much with such small means, 
and who received so slight a reward for his labors. 



Immediately after their defeat on the Bank Bill, 
Madison and Jeffereon took steps to provide them- 
selves with a newspaper oi^an. Hamilton's con- 
clusive opinion was transmitted, February 23, 1791. 
On the 28th Jefferson wrote to Philip Freneau offer- 
ing him a clerkship in the State Department, with 
the asurance that "it requires no other qualification 
than a moderate knowledge of the French," and that 
"should anything better turn up" in the department 
that "might suit" Freneau, he "should be very 
happy to bestow it so well." At that time Freneau 
was arranging to start a newspaper in New Jersey. 
Madison went to see him and induced him to set 
up his newspaper in Philadelphia. Writing to Jef- 
ferson, May 1, 1791, Madison said: "I have seen 
Freneau and given him a line to you. He sets out 
for Philadelphia today or tomorrow." The re- 
sult of the conferences which took place was that 
Freneau accepted the clerkship and made arrange- 
ments by which his newspaper was established in 
Philadelphia in time for the next session of Congress. 
The first number of the National Gazette appeared 
on October 31, 1791. Attacks upon the Administra- 


tion began in it December 8, 1791, and continued 
thereafter until October, 1793, when the publica- 
tion was discontinued aoon after Jefferson left the 
Cabinet. Madison was a contributor almost from 
the start, furnishing articles on such topics as "Con- 
Bolidation," "Money," "Government," "Charters," 
"Parties," "British Government," etc. They were 
calm in tone and decorous in language, but were 
calculated to produce vague impressions that public 
affairs were going wrong and that corrective action 
was desirable. 

In addition to retaining Freneau's services, it 

appears that efforts were also made to get the aid of 

Thomas Paine. Writing to Jefferson, July 13, 1791, 

Madison said : " I wish you success with all my heart 

in your efforts for Paine. Besides the advantage 

to him which he deserves, an appointment for him, 

I at this moment, woxild do good in various ways." 

About this time Paine produced his "Eights of 

|.Man," with the publication of which Jefferson was 

^connected in a way which he did not expect and which 

Iconsiderably embarrassed him. An edition of Paine's 

Qiphlet appeared with a letter of approval from 

Ijefferson, who wrote at once to Washington explain- 

ling that it had been meant as a private letter — 

"to my great astonishment, however, the printer 

f had prefixed my note to it, without having given me 

the most distant hint of it." Paine did not get an 

k appointment, and the affair doubtless had much 


to do with the bitter attacks which he made later 
upon Washington. 

In mailing these an-angements Jefferson and 
Madison do not appear at the outset to have had 
any distinct plan of opposition to the Administrar 
tion, but simply had in view the strengthening of 
their political influence. The principal mark of 
their censure was not at first Hamilton, but was 
John Adams, the Vice-President, who had been 
publishing some newspaper articles which both 
Jefferson and Madison characterized as an attack 
upon republican principles. Adams figured promi- 
nently, in their correspondence in the summer of 
1791, as the propagator of political heresies, but at 
this time there was no unfriendly mention of Hamil- 
ton. Both Jefferson and Madison seemed to be 
reluctant to make an issue of Hamilton's financial 
policy, for they had been a party to it through the 
aid they gave to the passage of assiunption. Their 
original expectation was that the storm it had raised 
would soon blow over. On July 31, 1790, Madison 
wrote to his father that, although he had voted 
against assumption, he had felt "that there was 
serious danger of a very unfavorable issue to the 
session from a contrary decision, and considered 
it as now incumbent on ua all to make the best of 
what was done. The truth is that in a pecuniaiy 
light, the assumption is no longer of much conse- 
quence to Virginia, the sum allotted to her being 


about her proportion of the whole, rather exceed- 
ing her present debt." Jefferson's correspondence 
shows positive favor to assumption. He wrote, 
June 27, 1790, that "a rejection of the measure 
. . . will be something very like a dissolution of the 
government." In a letter of July 4 he remarked: 
"The funding business being once out of the way, 
I hope nothing else may be able to call up local 
principles." On Jxily 25 he wrote that "the mea- 
sure was 30 vehemently called for by the State credi- 
tors in some parts of the Union that it seems to be 
one of those cases where some sacrifice of opinion 
is necessary for the sake of peace." On August 
4 he wrote that the struggle over assumption "really 
threatened, at one time, a separation of the legisla- 
ture sine die," and he remarked: "It is not foreseen 
that anything so generative of dissension can arise 
again, and therefore the friends of the government 
hope that, this difficulty once surmounted in the 
States, everything will work well." Writing on 
November 26, 1790, he remarked that assumption 
"is harped on by many to mask their disaffection 
I to the government on other groimds," but the govem- 
'meot was "too well nerved to be overawed by in- 
dividual opposition." On December 29, 1790, he 
wrote a veiy friendly letter to Hamilton, in which he 
expressed the hope that it would be "taken as an 
I advance towards unreserved communications for re- 
brocal benefit." 


Everything indicates that for upward of a year 
after the passage of assiunption Madison regarded 
it with indulgence, while Jefferson took credit to 
himself for having tided the government over a 
dangerous crisis. But the agitation did not buI> 
side. In December, 1790, the Virginia Legislature 
adopted fiery resolutions condemning both funding 
and asstunption. These resolutions laid down the 
platform on which both Madison and Jefferson 
eventually took their stand. The financial policy 
of the government was censured as being an imitar 
tion of British policy, and as a violation of the con- 
stitutional principle " that every power not granted 
was retained by the States." The resolutions ap- 
pealed to Congress " to revise and amend " the Public 
Credit Act, and "repeal, in particular, as much of it 
as relates to the assumption of the State debts." 
Jefferson was then loath to moimt that platform, 
but as time went on he felt increasing anxiety about 
foreign policy, and he became ardently desirous of 
establishing a strong party interest on the side of the 
French revolutionary government. But it became 
manifest that among the means he could employ to 
push his party interest none was so available as op- 
position to the Funding and Assumption Act which 
had been passed through his own agency. Here was 
a pretty hobble; but Jefferson was able to twist out 
of it. He excused himself on the ground that he 
did not know what he was doing; that he " was most 


ignorantly and innocently made to hold the candle" 
to Hamilton's game. The discredit to his intelli- 
gence he relieved by saying that he had then only 
recently arrived in the country, "a stranger to the 
groxmd, a stranger to the actors on it." 

It is impossible to reconcile this statement with 
the statements contained in Jefferson's own letters 
written at the time the deal on the Potomac site 
was pending; and furthermore, with Madison at 
his elbow, he could not have suffered from lack 
of information. It is equally impossible to recon- 
cile with contemporary evidence the account which 
Jefferson eventually gave of the effect of the passage 
of the act. As soon as " the form in which the bill 
would finally pass" had been indicated, wrote Jef- 
ferson, "the base scramble began. Couriers and 
relay horses by land, and swift sailing pilot boats by 
sea, were flying in all directions. Active partners 
and agents were associated and employed in every 
State, town and countr}' neighborhood, and this 
paper was bought up at five shilhngs and even as low 
as two shillings in the potmd, before the holder knew 
that Congress had ab-e-ady provided for its redemp- 
tion at par. Immense sums were thus filched from 
Lthe poor and ignorant." 

Inasmuch as Hamilton's proposals were com- 
municated to Congress on Januaiy 14, 1790, and the 
Assumption Bill did not become law until August 
nearly seven months intervened during which 


knowledge of the Goveniment's intention could be 
diffused among the people. Moreover, there was 
nothing new about the proposals. They had been 
discussed in the Continental Congress, and as a 
member of that body Madison himself had argued 
in favor of assumption. The formidable opposition 
that developed in Congress certainly gave opportu- 
nity to speculators by clouding the prospects of 
government paper, but purchasers had to take a 
risk, since the passage of the Public Credit Act with 
the assumption feature was not assiu^d until Jef- 
ferson himself put his shoulder to the wheel. Noth- 
ing like the scene of concerted activity described 
by Jefferson, writing long after the event, can be 
found in contemporary docxmients. There are ref- 
erences to speculative activity in Madison's corre- 
spondence shortly after the enactment, but nothing 
to justify the picture which Jefferson drew after 
his change of front. The psychology of the situa- 
tion is, however, readily intelligible. It frequently 
happens that when shifts of interest take place, 
stirring the feelings and energizing the will, the 
memory ia impressed into the service of the new 
state of the mind and thus becomes capable of rear- 
ranging past events in conformity with present views. 
Jefferaon and his adherents now made use of 
every possible means to break Hamilton's influence 
and discredit his management. Hamilton was at- 
tacked in the press, harassed in Congress, and in- 


trigued against in the Cabinet. Jefferson himself 
has recorded how he labored with Washington to 
inspire distnist of Hamilton. An entry in The 
Anas notes that the writer told the President that 
"the department of the Treasury possessed already 
such influence as to swallow up the whole executive 
powers," and that the popular discontents had 
"only a single source," Hamilton's policy. 

Hamilton hit back vigorously, and to this is due 
the clearest account that exists of the politics of the 
time. In a long letter, May 26, 1792, to Colonel 
Edward Carrington, of Virginia, Hamilton gave a 
detailed account of the political situation from the 
beginning. In it he showed that originally Madison 
and himself had been in entire agreement on fund- 
ing and assumption, and that he had been slow to 
believe that Madison had both changed his views 
and become personally unfriendly. "It was not 
till the last session," wrote Hamilton, "that I be- 

^came unequivocally convinced of the following truth : 
that Mr. Madison, cooperating with Mr. Jefferson, 
is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me 
and my administration; and actuated by views, 
in my judgment, subversive of the principles of 
good government and dangerous to the union, peace, 
and happiness of the country." 

Hamilton's characteristic habit of getting to the 

wttom of every subject he discussed is strongly 

irked in this letter. He made no use of the easy 



retort that was open to him of showing that JefFer- 
BOn himself was a participant in the measures now 
assailed, but he traced the animosity of Jefferson 
and Madison to its source in their characters and 
circumstances, and he gave this portrayal of the 
nature of their proceedings: 

It is possible, too, (for men ea^y heat their ima^na- 
tions when their passions are heated) that they have by 
degrees persuaded themselves of what they may have at 
first only sported to inBuence others, namely, that there 
is some dreadful combination against State government 
and republicanism; which, according to them, are con- 
vertible terms. But there is so much absurdity in this 
supposition, that the admission of it tends to apologize 
for their hearts at the expense of their heads. Under 
the influence of all these circumstances the attachment to 
the government of the United States, originally weak In 
Mr. Jefferson's mind, has given way to something very 
like dislike in Mr. Madison's. ... In such a state of 
mind both these gentlemen are prepared to hasM,rd a great 
deal to effect a change. Most of the important measures 
of every government are connected with the treasury. 
To subvert the present head of it, they deem it expedient 
to risk rendering the government itself odious; perhaps 
foolishly thinking that they can easily recover the lost af- 
fections and confidence of the people, and not appreciating, 
as they ought to do, the natural resistance to government, 
which in every community results from the human pas- 
^ons, the degree to which thb has been strengthened by 
the organized rivality of State governments, and the in- 
finite danger that the national government once rendered 
odious, will be kept so by these powerful and indefatigable 


enemies. Tliey forget an old, bat • very just though a 
coarse saying, that it is much easier to raise the devit 
than to lay him. 

This acute criticism is not only a 6ne piece of 
political psychology, but it is also entitled to rank 
as political prophecy. The Civil War was logically 
the outcome of principles originally advanced in 
the war against Hamilton. 

The Carrington letter was undoubtedly meant to 
call Jefferson and Madison to public account in 
their own State for their behavior. It was written 
to be shown about and, according to the customs of 
the times, it was a more direct challenge to them 
than a newspaper article would have been. At that 
time, both in England and America, it was consid- 
ered undignified to go into journalism in one's proper 
person; a pseudonym was the rule even when the 
actual authorship was generally known. But the 
Carrington letter bore Hamilton's signature and it 
might readily have been the beginning of a direct 
controversy, but Jefferson and Madison were too 
cautious to be drawn. Jefferson countered in a 
letter to George Mason, of Virginia, aiTaigning the 
financial pohcy of the Government as a scheme of t 
corruption, having for its ultimate object "to pre- 1 
pare the way for a change from the present republican , 
form of government to that of monarchy, of which i' 
the British constitution is to be the model." The ' 

,ter was virtually an indictment of Hamilton's 



leads, and this 
advantage to ' 

policy drawn out under twenty-one heads, £ 
particularity turned out to be an advantage to 
Hamilton. What he most desired was that charges 
against him should be given some definite shape so 
that he could meet them, and this favor Jefferson's 
letter happened to supply. Mason gave Washing- 
ton a copy and Washington transmitted the charges 
to Hamilton with a request for his "ideas upon the 
discontents here enumerated." Hamilton replied 
seriatim, expressing himself with marked warmth, 
as to which he remarked: "I have not fortitude 
enough always to bear with calmness calumnies 
which necessarily include me, as a principal agent 
in the measures censured, of the fdsehood of which 
I have the most unqualified consciousness." The 
objections which Hamilton had to meet as to the 
propriety of loans, funding operations, aJid bank- 
ing facilities are now so obsolete that the main im- 
pression left by examination of the docimients is 
the absurdity of the elaborate case framed by 
Jefferson. It was a pointless argument to expatiate 
upon the burden laid upon the Government by the 
fxmding scheme unless some other way could be 
instanced for disposing of obligations that the 
Government could not meet. Now there was an- 
other way — that of simply ignoring them, and the 
only logical ground of complaint against Hamilton 
was that he did not take that way, which was repu- 
diation. But Jefferson did not venture to take liiat 





ground, so it was easy for Hamilton to brush away 
his cavils by pointing out that "The public debt waa 
produced by the late war. It is not the fault of the ' 
present government that it exists, unless it can be 
proved that public morality and policy do not require 
of a government an honest provision for its debts." 
Nevertheless there was a strong feeling, among men 
of all parties, that Hamilton might have avoided 
that issue and let the Revolutionary debt sink itself 
through inattention to it, thus starting the new 
government without any burden of debt. Even in 
the Federalist ranks there was rather a grudge 
against Hamilton that he was so determined to 
rake up and pay off the old obUgations, and this 
accounts for much of the detraction he had to en- 
dure from some who figured as his allies. 

The only effect of the cabinet attacks, so far a 
Hamilton was concerned, was to fortify his position 
in Washington's esteem; but Washington himself 
'Was so disturbed by the continual dissension that 
ihe wanted to retire from public life. This did not 
at all suit Jefferson's book. What his faction de- 
sired was that Washington should stay on but 
should act in their interest. Although it is now 
known, since his private correspondence is acces- 
dble, that Washington was strongly in favor of 
assumption, he judged it wise to practise strict ret- 
icence as to his own views, as the original concep- 
tion of the Presidential office was that it should be 


above and beyond party spirit, like royalty. Eng- 
lish political thought stiU colored men's thoughts, 
and the object of Jefferson's manceuvres was what 
in England would have been called a change of 
ministry. \Vhat this practically meant in the 
American situation was that Hamilton should be 
put out of office, whereupon, it was thought, Wash- 
ington would naturally be guided by the advice 
of his Virginia associates— Jefferson, Madison, and 
Randolph. Washington went so far in his plans for 
retirement that he asked Madison to prepare a fare- 
well message for his use; but the whole Virginia 
set now labored to induce him to consent to re-elec- 
tion, and he reluctantly consented. 

The election over, the Jefferson cabal adopted 
new tactics. Instead of working directly upon 
Washington, they now planned to reach and move 
him through the action of Congress. In this scheme 
they were greatly aided by the conditions that had 
been established in Congress. Among the conse- 
quences of the exclusion of the Administration from 
the floor of Congress is the loss by Congress of in- 
teUigent control of its own business. Had HamU- 
ton had the opportxmity of confronting his accusers 
the groR'th of such fable as now collected about his 
plans and proceedings would have been impossible. 
Everj' one knows the difference between saying 
things to a man's face and twhind his back. The 
latter is the Congressional method, and the only 


way in which matters can be brought to an issue 
is by the slow, cumbersome method of resolutions 
of inquiiy and committees of investigation. Such 
means can be readily employed for purposes of sheer 
partisan annoyance, and there are innumerable 
instances of this character in the history of Congress. 
The evil has been aggravated by patronage develop- 
ments. The creation of committees furnishes plausi- 
^ble occasion for numerous clerkships and other sub- 
ordinate offices to be distributed by Congressional 
favor. Activities of this order are now very marked 
as a poUtical campaign comes on, and they constitute 
one of the greatest abuses of American politics. 
This partisan machinery had its origin in the war 
on Hamilton. His enemies sought to break him by 
a series of Congressional attacks, concerted in se- 
crecy with the advice and assistance of Jefferson 
and Madison. They obtained an ally in Congress 
who possessed exceptional courage, energy, and 


William Branch Giles, of Virginia, was a lawyer 
who was as fearless as Hamilton himself in con- 
fronting opposition. British debt cases had been 
'a marked feature of his practice, in the teeth of 
Virginia law prohibiting actions of this class, but 
Giles took the position, first maintained by Hamil- 
ton, that the Peace Treaty of 1783 prevailed over 
any opposing State law, and he pressed his cases 
with energy and success on the basis of a national 


jurisdiction in conflict with the Virginia statutes. 
This course was not calculated to secure political 
popularity, but he sheltered himself by the plea 
of professional duty, and on other matters he culti- 
vated popular support with such success that he 
got into the First Congress at a special election to 
fill a vacancy. When he took his seat the Assump- 
tion Bill had been passed, but he followed Madison's 
lead in unsuccessful opposition to the Bank Bill. 
He was re-elected to the Second Congress and during 
its sessions displayed so much energy and audacity 
that Madison stepped aside to allow him to lead 
in the war on Hamilton. After some preliminary 
Bkirmishing a grand attack was made on January 
23, 1793, when Giles presented a series of resolu- 
tions, in drafting which he had had the aasiBtance of 
Jefferson and Madison. He supported them in an 
adroit speech in which he said that they had grown 
out of the embarrassments he had met with in try- 
ing to comprehend the statements of the Secretary 
of the Treasury respecting foreign loans. He sub- 
mitted calculations suggestive of discrepancies, which 
he admitted might be removed by explanations but 
which at least showed that the House needed more 
information than it had. 

The tact and moderation of this speech had such 
an effect that the resolutions were adopted without 
serious opposition, although, so far as Giles's claim 
of ignorance was well founded, it was an exposure 


the defective procedure of the House. Could 
Hamilton have come before the House he could at 
■once have supplied all the information it needed 
and all the explanations it desired. As it was I 
had to meet a hea\7 demand upon the resources of 
his department. The resolutions called for particu- 
Llars of all loans, names of all persons to whom pay- 
ments had been made, statements of semimonthly 
^balances between the Treasury and the bank, and 
I account of the sinking-fund and of unexpended 
appropriations, from the beginning until the end 
lof 1792. In effect, the resolutions required Hamil- 
tton to complete and state all Treasury accounts, 
lalmost to date, and to give a transcript of all the 
ticulars. But the Treasury accounts were in 
luch perfect order, and so great was Hamilton's 
lapacity for work, that the information called for 
Ifras promptly transmitted, in reports dated Febni- 
tary 4, 13, and 14. 

In completing the heavy task laid upon him by 
his enemies, Hamilton observed that the resolutions 

>"were not moved without a pretty copious display 
of the reasons on which they were founded," which 
**were of a natiu-e to excite attention, to beget 
alarm, to inspire doubts." This remark was taken 
te ground for a charge that he was "guilty of an in- 
decorum to this House, in undertaking to judge of 
its motives in calling for information." Nothing 
was found amiss in the accounts; on the contrary, 



examination showed exactness, clearness, and order 
throughout. But on February 28, 1793, Giles moved 
nine resolutions, charging Hamilton with violation 
of law, neglect of duty, and transgression of the 
proper limits of his authority. The resolutions did 
not propose impeachment or, indeed, any action by 
Congress whatsoever, further than that " a copy .of 
the foregoing resolutions should be transmitted to 
the President of the United States." The proceed- 
ings virtually amounted to a declaration of want of 
confidence, with the expectation that Washington 
would be thereby constrained to remove Hamilton 
from office. 

Hamilton felt keenly the disadvantage he was un- 
der in not being allowed to face his accusers on the 
floor of the House. In the cireimastances the best 
he could do was to supply his friends with material 
for use in the debate. A speech delivered by Wil- 
liam Smith, of South Carolina, was in fact written 
by Hamilton, and it bears the marks of his style. 
In it he exclaimed what injustice it was to "con- 
demn a man unheard, nay, without his having even 
been furnished with the charges against him ! " 

The charges were intrinsically so weak that they 
could not stand up xmder discussion. The imputa- 
tions of wrong-doing rested upon mere cavils. It 
could not even be alleged that any public interest 
had sustained actual harm. It became so manifest 
that the resolutions were founded on nothing more 


substantial than spite that Giles could not hold his 
forces together. After the third resolution had been 
defeated by a vote of forty to twelve, an attempt was 
made to withdraw the others, but the House insisted 
upon consideration. One by one the remaining res- 
olutions were voted down by increasing majorities, 
until only seven members voted with Giles at the 
last, among them James Madison. It was a signal 
triumph for Hamilton and an occasion for deep 
chagrin with Jefferson and Madison. Jefferson 
held that the judgment of Congress might be re- 
vised at a futiu^ session and efforts to overthrow 
Hamilton were steadily continued. 



In the course of his criticisms upon Jefferson and 
Madison, in his Carrington letter of May 26, 1792, 
Hamilton said: 

In respect to foreign politics, the views of these gentle* 
men are, in my judgment, equally unsomid and danger- 
ous. They have a womanish attachment to France and 
a womanish resentment against Great Britain. They 
would draw us into the closest embrace of the former, and 
involve us in all the consequences of her politics; and they 
would risk the peace of the country in their endeavors to 
keep us at the greatest possible distance from the latter. 
This disposition goes to a length, particularly in Mr. 
Jefferson, of which, till lately, I had no adequate idea. 
Various circumstances prove to me that if these gentle- 
men were left to pursue their own course, there would be, 
in less than six months, an open war between the United 
States and Great Britain. I trust I have a due sense of 
the conduct of France towards this country in the late 
revolution; and that I shall always be among the fore- 
most in making her every suitable return; but there is 
a wide difference between this and implicating ourselves 
in all her politics; between bearing good will to her and 
hating and wrangling with all those whom she hates. 
The neutral and the pacihc policy ap[>ear3 to me to mark 
the true path to the United States. 


The records made in The Anas show that Ham- 
Iton did not err in his estimate of the extent of 
[Jefferson's partiality to France. The enthusiasm 
he had contracted for the revolutionary movement 
while resident in France during its early stages, 
while it had a philanthropic complexion, he carried 
with him into Washington's Cabinet and it colored 
his official behavior. He himself noted, on Decem- 
ber 27, 1792, that the duty of the United States to 
support France against England and Spain was the 
"doctrine which had been my polar star." Numer- 
ous entries show that it was a satisfaction to Jeffer- 

in to record the energy and persistence with which 
le took the French side in any discussion of the sub- 
ject in the meetings of the Cabinet. 

Shortly after Hamilton had beaten the Jefferson 
faction in Congress a crisis was brought on by the 
freaking out of war between France and England, 
able and experienced diplomatist, Edmond 

lendt, was sent out to claim the United States as an 

ly and to use her territory as a base of operations 

;ainst England. Genet landed at Charleston, 
;April S, 1793, receiving an enthusiastic welcome, 
!and he was so prompt and energetic that within five 

tys he had opened a recruiting station at which 
lerican seamen were taken into the French ser- 
"Vice; he had commissioned American vessels as 
French cruisers, and he had erected the office of the 
French consul into an admiralty court to deal with 
the prizes that were being brought in. 



Washington was at Mount Vernon when the news 
reached him. He at once called a meeting of the 
Cabinet and set out to Philadelphia to attend it. 
He arrived there on April 17, and the next day he 
laid before the members of the Cabinet thirteen 
questions upon which he desired their advice. 
Jefferson noted that the questions were in Wash- 
ington's own handwriting, "yet it was palpable 
from the style, their ingenious tissue and sxiite, that 
they were not the President's, that they were raised 
upon a prepared chain of argument, in short, that 
the language was Hamilton's and the doubts his 
alone." In Jefferson's opinion they were designed 
to lead "to a declaration of the Executive that our 
treaty with France is void." Jefferson was right 
as to Hamilton's authorship. At a time when 
Jefferson had no advice to give save that it would 
be well to consider whether Congress ought not to 
be summoned, Hamilton had ready for Washing- 
ton's use a set of interrogatories which subjected 
the whole situation to exact analysis. The critical 
questions were these; 

Shall a proclamation issue for the purpose of pre* 
venting interferences of the citizens of the United States 
in the war between France and Great Britain, &c.? 
Shall it contain a declaration of neutrality or not? What 
shall it contain ? 

Are the United States obliged, by good faith, to con- 
sider the treaties heretofore made with France as apjdy- 




r Ing to the present situation of the parties? May they 
father renounce them, or hold them suspended till the 
government of France shall be established t 

The issues thus clearly stated involved some nice 
questions of international obligation. There were 
two treaties between France and the United States, 
both concluded on the same day. One provided 
that the ships of war of each country should defend 
the vessels of the other country from all attacks that 
might occur while they were in company. Each 
countiy had the right to use the ports of the other, 
either for regular ^ps of war or for privateers and 
their prizes, which were to be exempt from any ex- 
amination or detention, "but they may hoist sail 
at any time and depart." All vessels of either 
country were entitled to refuge in the ports of the 
other, with entii-e freedom for repair and the pur- 
chase of supplies, but it was expressly provided 
that such hospitality should not be extended to 
vessels of an enemy of either country. The accom- 
panying instrument, entitled a treaty of alliance, 
was a mutual guarantee of territory, "forever agaJMt 
all other powers." These broad rights and privileges 
were supplemented in 1788 by a convention which 
pro%'ided for consular jurisdiction over cases involv- 
ing treaty rights. Gen^t thus had large warrant 
for his activities, if the treaties were still binding. 
They had been made with the King of France, whose 
head had been sliced off by the guillotine. The 



French revolutionary goveniment held that im 
engagements fell with his head and that th^ were 
free to decide what treaties of the old monarchy 
should be retained and what rejected. It was their 
policy to retain the American treaties, and Genfit 
was under instructions to use the United States 
not only as an ally against England but also as 
an instrument for restoring French colonial empire 
in America. To gain Canada, Louisiana, and the 
Floridas was among the objects of his mission. He 
counted upon obtaining funds through collection 
of the amount still due to France on the old loans 
to the United States. This remainder was then 
about $2,300,000, and now France made a demand 
for three million livres,— about $600,000, — ^promis- 
ing that the entire amount would be laid out in 
the purchase of supplies in the American market. 
On February 25, 1793, Jefferson noted that all the 
members of the Cabinet were willing to grant this 
demand except Hamilton, who stood out for keep- 
ing to the stipulated terms, according to which only 
an instalment of $318,000 was then due. 

On the question of a proclamation Jefferson now 
argued that it would be equivalent to declaring that 
the United States would take no part in the war, 
and that the Executive had no right to take this 
position since it was the exclusive province of Con- 
gress to declare war. Therefore Congress should 
be called to consider the question. Hamilton, who 

■ held tha 


held that it was both the right ajid the duty of the 
President to proclaim neutrality, was strongly op- 
posed to summoning Congress. In a brief note of 
I the cabinet meeting he remarked that "whether 
this advice proceeded from a secret wish to involve 
us in a war, or from a constitutional timidity, cer- 
tain it is such a step would have been fatal to the 
peace and tranquiUity of America." Hamilton 
pressed his views with such force that Jefferson 
agreed that if the term "neutrahty" were not em- 
ployed a proclamation might be issued enjoining 
American citizens from all acts and proceedings in- 
consistent with the duties of a friendly nation. It 
I was then imanimoxisly decided that Congress should 
not be convoked in advance of the regular session. 
'The proclamation was drafted by Attorney-General 
Randolph, who showed it to Jefferson to assure him 
that "there was no such word as neutrahty in it." 
Although Jefferson raised no objection to the word- 
ing of the proclamation at the time, a few months 
later he referred to it in letters to friends as a piece 
of "pusillanimity," because it omitted any e3(pression 
of the affection of America for France. 

By its terms the proclamation was simply an ad- 
monition to American citizens to keep out of the 
war, with notice that they would be hable to prose- 
cution for acts of a nature to "violate the law of 
nations." It is manifest that the question whether 
or not the treaties with France were still in force waa 


of great practical importance. If they were, they 
were part of the law of the land and American citi- 
zens might claim immunity for acts done imder 
cover of their provisions. Hamilton held that the 
treaty obligations should be suspended since a situa- 
tion had arisen which made them inconsistent with a 
policy of neutrality. They contemplated only de- 
fensive war; but France had taken the offensive, 
thereby relieving the United States of her reciprocal 
obligations. Jefferson held that the treaty stipula- 
tions were still operative, for, even if they apparently 
required the United States to engage in the war, 
it did not follow that such would be the aetxial eon- 
sequence. The possibility was "not certain enough 
to authorize us in sound morality to declare, at this 
moment, the treaties null." It is not at all surprising 
that with this ambiguity m the position of the Gov- 
ernment, there was difficulty in giving practical effect 
to the proclamation. When proceedings were taken 
against Gideon Henfield, an American citizen who 
had enlisted to serve on a French privateer, GenSt 
came to his defense and obtained a jury verdict of 
acquittal, which was popularly regarded as a rebuke 
to the Administration and a victory for Gen§t. 

The whole country thrilled with enthusiasm in be- 
half of France. According to Chief Justice Marshall, 
"a great majority of the American people deemed 
it criminal to remain unconcerned spectators of a 
conflict between their ancient enemy and republican 

" an 


France." Genet's journey from Charleston to Phila- 
delphia assumed the character of a triumphal prog- 
ress. As he approached the city a procession was 
formed to escort him to his lodgings. Among John 
Adams's reminiscences is an account of "the terror- 
ism excited by GenSt in 1793, when ten thousand 
people in the streets of Philadelphia, day after day, 
threatened to drag Washington out of his house, and 
effect a revolution in the government, or compel 
it to declare war in favor of the French Revolu- 
tion and against England." Adams related that 
he judged it prudent to order a chest of arms from 
the war-office to be brought into his house to defend 
it from attack. 

This account, written many years after the event, 
is no doubt accurate in its description of the alarm 
which the situation caused to a timid man. Letters 
written by Hamilton during all this axcitement show 
that he viewed it with cool intrepidity. In May, 
1793, he wrote that the number of persons who went 

meet GenSt "would be stated high at a hundred," 
and he did not beheve that a tenth part of the city 
participated in the meetings and addresses of Genet's 
sympathizers. "A crowd will always draw a crowd, 
whatever be the purpose. Curiosity will supply the 
■place of attachment to, or interest in, the object." 
Washington's own letters at this period show no 
trace of concern about his personal safety, but he 
smarted under the attacks on his motives. In Jef- 


ferson'e Anas, under date of August 2, 1793, is an 
account of an explosion of rage over a print in which 
Washington was brought to the guillotine for crimes 
against liberty. According to Jefferson, Washing- 
ton swore that "by God he had rather be in hia 
grave than in his present situation; that he had 
rather be on his farm than to be made emperor of 
the tvorld; and yet that they were charging him with 
wanting to be a kiog." 

At the cabinet meeting of April 19 there had been 
a sharp difference of opinion as to the way in which 
Gen^t should be received. Jefferson and Randolph 
were of opinion that the reception should be uncon- 
ditional. Hamilton, supported by Knox, proposed 
that this notice should be given to Genfet: 

That the Government of the United States, uniformly 
entertaining cordial wishes for the happiness of the French 
nation, and disposed to maintain with it amicable com- 
munication and intercourse, uninterrupted by political 
vicissitudes, does not hesitate to receive him in the char- 
acter, which his credentials import; yet, considering the 
origin, course, and circumstances of the relations continued 
between the two countries and the existing position of the 
affairs of France, it is deemed advisable and proper on 
the part of the United States to reserve to future consider^ 
ation and discussion the question, whether the operation 
of the treaties, by which those relations were fonned, 
ought not to be temporarily and provisionally suspended; 
and under this impression it is thought due to a spirit 
of candid and friendly procedure, to apprise him before- 
hand of the intention to reserve that question, lest ^ence 
on the point should occasion misconstruction. 


W THE ] 

f The even division of the Cabinet, coupled with 
the fact that the matter belonged to Jefferson's 
department, caxised Washington to refrain from 
making a decision, the practical effect being that 
Jefferson had his way. This left Genfit in a position 
to claim all the advantages conferred upon France 
by the treaties, and he took an attitude of indignant 
remonstrance at the duplicity of the American posi- 
tion. Did not the United States have treaty en- 
gagements with France? By what authority, then, 
did the Administration interfere with him in the en- 
joyment of his rights as the representative of France, 
and interfere with American citizens in their deal- 
ings with him ? "As long as the States, assembled in 
Congress, shall not have determined that this solemn 
engagement should not be performed, no one has 
the right to shackle oiu" operations." 

Genet's argument turned against Jefferson the 
same points that Jefferson himself had been making 
uin the cabinet meetings. Jefferson replied that 
"without appealing to treaties, we are at peace with 
I all by the law of nature; — for by nature's law man 
I is at peace with man." GenSt insisted with entire 
I logical propriety that if the treaties were in force he 
■"Was entitled to act in accordance with them, and he 
1 managed to engage in the French service a consider- 
I able fleet of American vessels. On June 19 he was 
I able to inform his government; "I am provisioning 
I the West Indies, I excite the Canadians to break 
Ithe British yoke, I arm the Kentukois, and prepare 

& naval expedition which will facilitate the descent 
on New Orleans." The last-mentioned enterpnse 
is one which he had arranged with the famous 
frontier commander George Rogers Clark, who was 
ready to invade Louisiana if funds and supplies 
were provided. Genfit's intimacy with Jefferson 
was such that he talked to him about this enterprise. 
Jefferson complained that enticing officers and men 
from Kentucky to go against Spain "was really 
putting a halter about their necks," but he did not 
think he had any right to interfere, and he noted 
that Gengt "communicated these things to me, not 
as Secretary of State, but as Mr. Jefferson." 

Genfit acted with such ability and energy that he 
might have used the United States as the Germans 
used Turkey, had not Hamilton stood in the way. 
Genet's chief trouble for some time was only lack of 
funds, due to Hamilton's steady refusal to anticipate 
the maturing of the French loan. Everything else 
seemed to be going in GenSt's favor when on June 
29, 1793, pubKcation began of a serws of eight 
articles signed "Pacificus." Although rapidly pro- 
duced, in the midst of alarms, they are,^o dignified 
in style, elevated in thought, acute in analysis, and 
cogent in reasoning that they have taken classic 
rank as a treatise upon international rights and 
duties. The effect upon all people capable of 
serious thought was so marked that at Jefferson's 
instance and with his aid Madison attempted a 




reply, but desisted after producing five articles over 
the signature "Helvidius," making the familiar 
points of strict-construction theorizing as to execu- 
tive limitations, but failing to reach the main point 
of what to do and how to do it. Neither Jefferson 
nor Madison was a match for Hamilton in debate, 
and public opinion now began to turn against them. 
For this they now blamed Genfit, who after all was 
only claiming treaty rights which Jefferson acknowl- 
edged. By July 7 Jeflferson was writing to Madi- 
son that "GenSt renders my position immensely 
difficult." But, as GenSt was acting in the interests 
of his mission and not in Jefferson's interest, he con- 
tinued to equip vessels in American ports to prey 
on British commerce. In his perplexity Jefferson, 
on July 12, actually wrote to Hammond, the British 
minister, requesting him not to allow such vessels 
to depart. Hammond naturally expressed surprise 
that he shoidd receive such an application, since he 
had no control over their movements. 

Among th" vessels mentioned in Jefferson's letter 
was The Little Sarah, a British merchantman, which 
had been brought into Philadelphia as a French 
prize and was being refitted as a French privateer, 
its name changed to Le Petit Dimocrate. This, 
proceeding brought on a crisis. Steps were taken to 
detain the vessel by force, but Jefferson protested 
and undertook to arrange with GenfSt that the vessel 
should not sail until its legal status was decided, 




urging that the President would consult the justices 
of the Supreme Court, "whose knowledge of the sub- 
ject would seciu-e against errors dangerous to tiie 
peace of the United States, and their authority in- 
sure the respect of all parties." 

Washington, harassed and confused by the dis- 
sensions in his Cabinet, had indeed decided to take 
this step. Hamilton was opposed to a proceeding 
which involved prejudgment on questions that 
might come before the court in due course of law, 
and which seemed to him to be an evasion of the 
proper responsibility of the Executive, but he took 
part in preparing the case. Of the twenty-nine 
questions submitted to the Supreme Court, Hamil- 
ton framed twenty-one, Jefferson seven, and Wash- 
ington himself added one. The justices declined to 
answer. Jefferson then consulted Randolph whether 
they could not " prepare a bill for Congress to appoint 
a board or some other body of advice for the Execu- 
tive on such questions." But expedients for dodg- 
ing executive responsibility had by that time been 
exhausted. Le Petit Dimoa-ate had meanwhile put 
to sea. Jefferson felt hurt and indignant over the 
way Genet had treated him. He now joined with 
the rest of the Cabinet in demanding that Genfit 
should be recalled, and his despatch setting forth 
the reasons is a dignified and powerful presentation 
of the case. But at this very time Gen^t was still 
strongly upheld by the Jeffersonian press. Freneau's 


National Gazette mamtained that; so far from over- 
stepping his rights, Gen^t had really acted "too 
tamely"; had indeed been "too accommodating 
for the peace of the United States." Hamilton now 
again appealed to pubHc opinion in a series of articles 
over the signature "No Jacobin," in which Genet's 
behavior was reviewed. After five articles had 
appeared the series ended abruptly because Hamilton 
was stricken by the yellow fever which raged in 
Philadelphia that summer. But the battle was now 
won. A reaction had set in for which Jefferson laid 
the blame on Genet's defiant bearing, "risking that 
disgust which I had so much wished should have 
been avoided." 



In a letter of July 31, 1793, at a time whoi his 
troubles with GenSt over Le Petit Dtmocrate were 
at their height, J^erson wrote to Washington 
announcing his desire to resign at the close of 
the next month. J^erson noted that Washington 
tried to dissuade him, and in the course of their 
conversation said that '' Colonel Hamilton had three 
or f om* weeks ago written to him, informing him that 
private as well as public reasons had brought him 
to the determination to retire, and that he should 
do it towards the close of the next session. He said 
he had often before intimated dispositions to resign, 
but never as decisively before; that he [Washington] 
supposed he had fixed on the latter part of next ses- 
sion to give an opportunity to Congress to examine 
iDto his conduct." 

It was a fact that Hamilton had become anxious 
to retire from public oflBice; not that he flinched from 
its burdens and anxieties, but simply because he 
could not afford to stay. While he was being as- 
sailed as the manager of vast profiteering operations 
in finance, the actual, pitiful fact was that his pay 
was only $3,500 a year, about a fourth of what he 



might have been earning in his profession, mean- 
while enjoying the respect of the community, whereas 
lie was now a mark for calumny and slander. Al- 
though more than any other man he was establish- 
ing the new government on a solid and durable basis, 
he was accused of planning its overthrow and was 
the object of a vast concoction of fiction to that 
purport. Partisan spite goes to extreme lengths in 
American politics, but never has it been so wildly 
extravagant as in the case of Alexander Hamilton. 
The proverb that where there is so much smoke 
there must be some fire is often turned to account 
by American politicians in lighting a smudge to 
darken the reputation of an opponent, and Hamilton 
had to endure more of this sort of warfare than any 
other American statesman. So far as its immediate 
pui-pose was concerned — that of forcing him out of 
the Cabinet — it defeated its end by its own violence. 
He wanted to get out as soon as he decently could, 
but he did not intend to go until he had met and 
answered every charge that could be brought against 
him. If his enemies had desisted when the GOes 
■charges in the Second Congress broke down, he would 
"Iiave resigned office soon thereafter. But when 
Giles tried to explain his defeat on the ground that 
the House had acted without due examination of the 
ice, Hamilton made up his mind that he would 
lot allow his enemies that excuse. 
I When the Third Congress met, December 2, 


PeoiiDg Mtian by the Hook, 1 
mtrijjfif hnlil nf ii fliiiiliiiijjnl iliil iJtlii T iiiiii j 
DfpsrbDeBt, wfth wbam tad a new fine cf attadc 
WM opened A memtMial bom Andrew G. F^manoes 
WOK laid before the Houbc makbig disigcs to the 
effect that the payment of warrants had been de- 
layed fto that they could be bought up by Epecalatois 
at a discount. Hamflton's request for an invest^ar 
tfoti v/Hii allowed to lie on the table, while publidty 
WflM given to Fraunces's tale and arrangements were 
madfr for proceeding with it by a select committee. 
Oili!M wart a member, a circumstance which turned 
out to be to Hamilton's advantage, for, although 


Giles was 3, hard, bold, resolute fighter, he was an 
erect and manly foe. He did not stab in the dark 
and he did not use poisoned weapons. When he 
looked into Fraunces's character and into the testi- 
mony that was offered he could not stonaach either 
and he concurred in a report on Hamilton, finding 
that the evidence was "fully sufficient to justify 
his conduct; and that in the whole course of this 
transaction the Secretaiy and other officers of the 
Treasury have acted a meritorious part towards the 

Giles still pressed his motion for further investi- 
gation of the Treasury Department, but upon differ- 
ent grounds from what he had urged before. Now 
he admitted that imputations upon the Secretary's 
integrity had been quite removed, and he held that 
"the primary object of the resolution is to ascertain 
ihe boundaries of discretion and authority between 
Legislature and the Treasury Department." 
But by this time the House was sick of the whole 
[.business. The original purpose had been to force 
I Hamilton out of office so as to leave Jefferson with 
Lan undisputed premiership in Washington's Cabinet, 
Ibut Jefferson quit on December 31, 1793, while this 
matter was pending, and doubtless it was known that 
[amilton too was gomg. Doubtless it was also 
nown that Washington was sony that he had con- 
sented to re-election and that he, too, would have 
t-been glad to resign if he could. The attack upon 


Hamilton had been a complete failure; everybody 
knew that. All that remained of it was a proposal 
that the House should engage in vague schemes of 
departmental regulation which after all would not 
touch Hamilton but would descend upon hia succes- 
sor, who might even be one of their own set. The 
House became so reluctant to proceed with the busi- 
ness that when it came up, February 24, 1794, Giles 
and Page were the only speakers and both dis- 
claimed any intention of reflecting upon Hamilton. 
The House rid itself of the matter by referring it to 
a committee. It was perfectly well understood 
that this was simply a decent burial; and that was 
the end. 

Hamilton had once more defeated his enemies, 
and might now have marched out with all the honors 
of the victor on a hard-fought field; but conditions 
of such peril to the Government had now been de- 
veloped that he was unwilling to leave until he had 
removed them. One of the counts of Jefferson's 
indictment of Hamilton's poUey was that the excise 
law was "of odious character . . . committing the 
authority of the Government in parts where resist- 
ance is most probable and coercion least practicable." 
The parts thus referred to were the mountains of 
western Pennsylvania, where popular discontent 
promptly coalesced with the agitation carried on 
against Washington's neutrality pohcy. At a meet- 
ing of delegates from the election districts of Alle- 


^^^ RI 

JlJjeny County, held at Pittsburgh, resolutions were 
adopted attributing the course of the Government 
"to the pernicious influence of stockholders," and 
declaring "that we are almost ready to wish for a 
state of revolution and the guillotine of France, for 
a short space, in order to inflict punishment on the 
miscreants that enervate and disgrace our Govern- 
ment." In the summer of 1794 this state of mind 
had produced its natxu-al consequence in open in- 
Burrection. Writing to Governor Lee, of Virginia, 
Washington said that he considered "this insurrec- 
tion as the first formidable fruit of the Democratic 



It was not in Hamilton's nature to retire from office 
in the presence of such a situation. Writing to 
Washington, May 27, 1794, he said: "I some time 
since communicated an intention to withdraw from 
the office I hold, towards the close of the present 
session. This I should now put in execution but 
;or the events which have lately accxunulat^d, of a 

itm^ to render the prospects of the continuance of 
peace in a considerable degree precarious. I do 
not perceive that I could voluntarily quit my post 
at such a jxmcture consistently with considerations 
neither of duty or character; and therefore I find 

'self reluctantly obliged to defer the offer of my 


The letter went on to say that if Washington had 

tanwhile made other arrangements he would -be 


glad "to relinquiah a situation opposed by the 
strongeat personal and family relations, and in 
which even a momentary stay could only be pro- 
duced by a sense of duty or reputation." But 
Washington was delighted to have him stay on, 
and at once wrote: "I am pleased that you have 
determined to remain at your post tmtil the clouds 
over our affairs, which have come on so fast of 
Iftte, shall be dispersed." 

Although what has passed into history as the 
Whiskey Insurrection had now assumed a character 
that would have naturally brought it under the War 
Department, Washington left the arrangements to 
Hamilton. The principle on which Hamilton acted 
was that the force employed ought "to be an im- 
posing one, such, if practicable, as will deter from 
(^position, save the effusion of the blood of the 
citizens, and serve the object to be accomplished." 
All the members of the Cabinet concurred in Hamil- 
ton's opinion except Attorney-General Randolph, 
who abounded in objection, protest, and warning. 
Hamilton's plans called for a force of 12,000 men, 
of whom 3,000 were to be cavalry. Some appear- 
ance of timidity and inertia in Pennsylvania State 
authority was effectually counteracted by measures 
which showed that the expedition would move even 
if Pennsylvania held back. The business was so 
shrewdly managed that without any direct pressure 
Pennsylvania fell obediently into line, and every- 


■ thing we 


r thing went off as Hamilton had planned. The 
insurgents were so cowed by the detennined action 
of the Government that they submitted without a 

Since it is in the natm-e of precaution that the 
more successful it is the less neceasaiy it appears 
to have been, the completeness of Hamilton's suc- 
! furnished his enemies with a new ciy against 
him, and his costly miUtary expedition that had no 
fighting to do was held up to public ridicule. But 
the truth is that any failure might have been fatal 
to the Government. Randolph was in a state of 
panic. Fauchet, the French minister, reported 
him as overcome with grief, declaring: "It is all 
over; a civil war is about to ravage our unhappy 
Bountry." He applied to Fauchet for financial 
assistance; the fact was made public through the 
capture of Fauchet's correg>ondence by the British 
and Randolph retired from the Cabinet under a 

Hamilton now felt free to press his own resignar 
on, but not until any official desire to investigate 
his conduct had been fully satisfied. Under date 
of December 1, 1794, he wrote to the Speaker of 
the House that he had arranged with the President 
to resign his office on Januaiy 31, adding: "I mate 
this communication in order that an opportimity 
may be given, previous to that event, to institute any 
further proceeding which may be contemplated, if 


any there be, in consequence of the inqxiiry during 
the last session into the state of this Department." 
No notice was taken of this communication and 
Hamilton took no further notice of the attitude of 
the House, which had certainly placed itself in an 
undignified position by its failure to take decisive 
action in one way or another on Giles's resolution. 
Hamilton addressed to the Senate his final report 
on the public credit. On January 16, 1795, he wrote 
that he had "prepared a plan, on the basis of acttxal 
revenues, for the fiu^^her support of public credit, 
which is ready for communication to the Senate." 
The body promptly called for it and it was trans- 
mitted on January 20, It is a masterly examination 
of the whole field of national finance, presented with 
such clearness, order, dignity, and power that it 
ranks among the greatest of Hamilton's state papers. 
Li addition to preparing this long and comprehensive 
report, in the midst of his arrangements for de- 
partiu*, he also made a much briefer report to the 
House of Representatives, making some valuable 
suggestions for the improvement of the revenue. He 
finished this on the day his resignation took effect, 
and by the time it reached the House he was no 
longer Secretary' of the Treasury. He had laid 
down the office in which he had established a new 
nation upon firm foimdationa. 


In considering the later events of Hamilton's career, 
it is apt to occiu" to one how much better it would 
have been for his reputation had he had nothing more 
to do with political management after quitting public 
life. From now on one must observe a lowering of 
bis standard of behavior, a tolerance of methods and 
practices which once he would have scorned and 
which he admitted now, not through change of 
opinion as to their character, but through calcula- 
tions of party advantage. But upon a broad view 
of the situation it is clear that it was practically im- 
possible for him to disengage himself from poUtics. 
He was still a yoxmg man — only thirty-eight when he 
resigned the Treasury portfolio. His advice was 
sought continually, and situations developed that 
made irresistible appeals to his sense of pubUc 
duty. The blemish to his reputation is not in that 
his public activity continued but in that he allowed 
it to produce a system of private direction of public 
affairs incompatible with any sort of constitutional 
government. Occasion and opportimity for such 
tactics had been supphed by the behavior of Con- 
gress in disconnecting itself from the Administration, 


thus insuring ite own subjection to outside influence 
covertly exerted. The conditions thus created ex- 
plain Hamilton's behavior, but do not justify it. 
His proper function was to rectify conditions, not 
to yield to them; and in so doing the great states- 
man declined into the intriguing politician, a char- 
acter poorly suited to one of his frank disposition. 

To this part of his career, however, belongs as 
brilliant an achievement in public service as any per- 
formed by him. In June, 1795, the Jay treaty was 
ratified by the Senate with the exception of an article 
relating to trade with the West Indies, an omission 
to which the British Government in the end made 
no objection. The Senate had decided to keep the 
treaty a secret, but one of the members furnished a 
copy to the opposition press and at once fiuious de- 
nunciation of it began. Up to this time Washington 
had acted in a routine way, contenting himself with 
a reference of the matter to the Senate, but the con- 
ditional ratification and the outburst of popular 
disapproval raised questions which perplexed him. 
He appUed to Hamilton for his opinion, saying: "My 
wishes are to have the favorable and unfavorable 
side of each article stated and compared together,- 
that I may see the bearing and tendency of them.'* 

Hamilton's reply, written in New York, is dated 
only six days later than the date of Washington's 
letter written at Philadelphia, so his analysis must 
have been the work of a few days, but nevertheless 


' it is an elaborate and comprehensive examination 
of a complicated case. He condemned the article 
relating to West Indian trade and approved the 
action of the Senate in rejecting it, but on the whole 
his judgment was strongly in favor of accepting the 
treaty as thus modified. Washington was very 
grateful, and in returning his thanks said: "I am 
really ashamed when I behold the trouble it has 
given you, to explore and explain so fully as you 
have done." 

At this time Jefferson was active in encoura^g 
attacks upon the Administration. He held that the 
I toeaty was an "execrable thing," an "infamous act, 
I which is really nothing more than a treaty of aUiance 
I between England and the Anglo-men of this country 
I against the Legislatxire and the people of the United 
Meetings were held all over the coun- 
I try at which the most violent language was used. 
I In Philadelphia, on the 4th of July, there was a 
I parade in which an effigy of John Jay, bearing in- 
I suiting inscriptions, was borne through the streets 
land then publicly burned. In New York a mob 
■ gathered in Wall Street to denounce the treaty. 
I Hamilton made an attempt to address them from 
Itiie balcony of Federal Hall but was met by a 
I shower of stones. "These are hard arguments to 
leicounter," he remarked with a smile as he retired. 
I The mob marched to Bowling Green and biimed a 
I copy of the treaty in front of Jay's official 



as Governor of New York, an office to which he 
had been elected before the treaty waa published. 
Many prominent citizens took part in these dem- 
onstrations. Brockholst Livingston, Mrs. Jay's 
brother, acted as chairman of a committee which re- 
ported twenty-eight resolutions of particular cen- 
." As a matter of fact Jay had performed a difficult 
task with great tact and skill. The Administration 
was in a poor position for obtaining any favor from 
the British Government, for mider the impotent 
government of the Confederation the various States 
had contemptuously ignored the stipulations of the 
peace treaty in behalf of British creditors. While 
Jay was secretary of foreign affairs he had advised 
the Continental Congress that our treaty engage- 
ments with Great Britain "have been constantly 
violated on our part by legislative acts, then and still 
existing and operating," and that the British Govern- 
ment could not therefore be blamed for delajdng the 
surrender of the western posts until the United 
States had shown themselves able and willing to 
fulfil their own obUgations under the treaty. Col- 
lisions had begun on the western frontier and the 
two countries were plainly drifting into war, when 
Washington decided to send a special envoy to deal 
with all the points at issue. Washington's original 
intention had been to send Hamilton, but was warned 
that the Senate would not ratify the appointment. 



and Hamilton himself proposed Jay as the fittest 
man for the task. Jay could have offered a plausible 
excuse for declining, as he was at that time chief 
justice of the Supreme Court, and he showed a fine 
patriotism in accepting. He remarked to friends 
that the circumstances were such that no man could 
■frame a treaty with Great Britain without making 
liimself odious to popular sentiment, and he accepted 
the mission under "a conviction that t« refuse it 
would be to desert my duty for the sake of my ease, 
and domestic concerns and comforts." Of course, 
eveiy treaty made by voluntary agreement must be 
arrived at on the principle of give and take, but 
popular sentiment in the United States had not yet 
been educated up to appreciation of the fact that 
independence brought loss as well as gain. The 
general feeling seems to have been that now that 
the war was over things would go on as before in 
matters of commerce and navigation; and there was 
great indignation that they should now be denied 
rights and opportunities they had enjoyed as British 
subjects. Their mood was strong for taking but 
not for giving, and, although Jay had really been 
remarkably successful in making gains, these of 
course fell short of the public desire, while the con- 
cessions he had had to make were regarded as mon- 
Popular sentiment ran so strongly against the 
that Washington was much perturbed, and 


in one of his letters to Hamilton he spoke of Uie 
pleasure he had felt on reading a newspaper article 
in which one "Camillus" announced his intention 
of discussing the treaty in a series of communications. 
"To ju{^ of this work," wrote Washington, "from 
the first number I have seen, I augur well of the 
performance and shall expect to see the subject han- 
dled in a clear, distinct, and satisfactory maxmet." 
Washington's hope was abundantly fulfilled, fix 
"Camillus" was none other than Hamilton himself. 
Once again he had come forward to face and subdue 
the passions of the hour by sheer intellectual might. 
The Camillus series began on July 22, 1795, and 
were continued well into the following year, endiog 
with the thirty-eighth number. They form a mas- 
terly treatise upon the foreign relations of nations 
and the nature of international law, and in dignity 
of style, force of reasoning, and breadth of "vision the 
successive numbers are worthy of ranking with The 
Federalist series. The power and ability displayed 
had a marked effect in bearing down the opposition 
and effecting a conversion of opinion. It was in 
reference to this series that Jefferson declared that 
"Hamilton was a Colossus to the Anti-Republican 
party," and he implored Madison to take the field 
against him. Madison prudently declined, but 
what controversial ability Jefferson's followers could 
produce was massed against Hamilton, He wisely 
refrained from any rejoinder in his Camillus seri», 


which keeps to high gi-ound thi-oughout; but to deal 
with particular antagonists he carried on another 
series over the signatiire "Philo-Camillus," driving 
them one after another from the field. Hamilton's 
course during the agitation over the Jay treaty is a 
marvellous exhibition of sustained intellectual power, 
and it shoiild not be forgotten that he who did this 
mighty work had to snatch the time for it from hia 
occupation as a lawyer, on which he was wholly de- 
pendent for the support of his family. Had it not 
been for his intervention, the House of Representa- 
tives might have broken the treaty. As it was there 
was a violent struggle, during which Madison and 
Giles argued against the treaty, but in the end the 
Eouae stood fifty-one to forty-eight in favor of givii^ 
effect to it. 

During the struggle Washington kept in close 
touch with Hamilton, looking to him for help that 
was bounteously given. Not long after this matter 
had been concluded Washnigton again sought Hamil- 
ton's help on a matter he had much to heart — the 
composition of a dignified and appropriate address 
to announce his retirement to private life. This 
Farewell Address, to give it the name it has always 
since borne, was not addressed to Congress but to 
his countrymen, to let it be known that he refused 
to be a candidate for re-election. The address 
occupied much of Washington's attention during 
the summer of 1796. In 1792, when Washington 

thought of declining a second term, he got Madison 
to prepare an addrcBS making that announcement. 
Thia draft, with notes and suggestions, Washing- 
ton now transmitted to Hamilton. Hamilton, how- 
ever, prepared an entirely new address, the first 
draft of which was an abstract of points to be made, 
twenty-three in number. Later, after a conference 
with Jay m which the Madison draft and Washing- 
ton's notes on it were considered, Hamilton prepared 
a paper of changes and corrections, in effect consti- 
tuting an alternative draft. Washington, however, 
preferred Hamilton's original draft, and upon that, 
with Washington's notes, suggestions, and correc- 
tions, the address was formed in the shape in which 
it was finally issued. Washington's own ideas con- 
trolled the substance; the literary form was sup- 
plied by Hamilton. In addition Hamilton drafted 
an important part of Washington's address to Con- 
gress at the opening of the session, December, 1796. 
But while Hamilton was engaged in these high and 
noble activities he was also dipping into the mean 
puddles of journalism, not without an occasional 
^lash from their mud. He began to write for the 
newspapers while a college boy and he kept on doing 
so the rest of his life. The many journals that ap- 
peared from time to time in the Federalist party 
interest received help from his pen, and the volumes 
now required for his acknowledged writings would be 
much swollen had all his fugitive pieces been pre- 



f served. William Cobbett, who wrote xmder the 
pseudonym of "Peter Porcupine," — a name which 
fitly characterizes his barbed style — was assisted 
by Hamilton in establishing his Weekly Political 
Register — which appeared from 1794 to 1800, when, 
broken by libel suits, Cobbett quit the fray, returning 
to England to continue there his tempestuous career. 
In ISOl Hamilton, in conjimction with several promi- 
nent Federalists, established the New York Evening 
Post, one of the few journals of the period that be- 
came a permanent institution. Hamilton's con- 
nection with The Post was so close that all its feuds 
were scored against him, and he was a frequent 
contributor. The editor was William Coleman, a 
clever lawyer who for a short time was a partner of 
Aaron Burr. Coleman made no secret of the fact 
that the paper acted in Hamilton's interest, but he 
once told a friend that Hamilton never actually 
wrote a word for it, then adding, "Whenever any- 
thing occurs on which I feel the need of information 
I state the matter to him, sometimes in a note; he 
appoints a time when I may see him, usually a late 
hour of the evening. He always keeps himself mi- 
nutely informed on all pohtical matters. As soon 
as I see him he begins in a deliberate manner to 
dictate and I note down in shorthand; when he 
stops, my article is completed." 

Hamilton's newspaper connections gave provoca- 
tions that unparted special venom to the scurrilous 




attacks of which he was a perpetual target. He 
would never reply in his own person unless Bome 
charge was made against his personal integrity, on 
which he was as sensitive as a good woman is to 
her reputation for chastity. Then he would strike 
back at once and strike hard. In November, 1799, 
he had the foreman of a New York paper indicted for 
libel, and the defendant was fined $100 and sent to 
prison for four months. 

To Hamilton's susceptibihty on this point is due 
a disclosure that has made a nasty stain upon his 
reputation. Charges of the same kind spattered 
many of the leading men of the times. Jefferson 
was among those who suffered from them, but he 
wisely forebore to reply. The circumstances which 
involved Hamilton in open scandal display the mean- 
ness to which partisanship can stoop more than all 
other events in American pohtical history, dirty as 
is its record in matters of this sort. In 1792 two 
men, Clingraan and Reynolds, were arrested for 
subornation of perjury in attempts to obtain money 
on a claim against the Government. Speaker Muhl- 
enburg, of the Hoxise of Representatives, interested 
himself in CUngman's behalf and was told by him 
that Reynolds had a hold on Hamilton. Muhlen- 
burg who was one of Jefferson's adherents, told 
Abraham Venable and James Monroe. The three 
conferred with Reynolds and his wife, and obtained 
some papers attributed to Hamilton, which, insignif- 




leant in themselves, were exhibited as evidence 
corroborating a charge that Hamilton had been con- 
cerned with Reynolds in buying up old claims against 
the Government. The three then confronted Hamil- 
ton, who frankly avowed that he had had an in- 
trigue with Mrs. Reynolds, and then showed con- 
clusively that the charges they were investigating 
were wholly the product of malicious fabrication. 
The inquirers professed to be entirely satisfied by 
the explanations made, and the matter was then 
dropped, but Monroe kept copies of all the papers, 
with records of statements made by Clingman and 
Reynolds, which he turned over to one of his politi- 
cal intimates, who some years later gave a partisan 
lumalist the use of them. 

The charges were made public in 1797. Hamil- 
ton at once called upon the investigators of 1792 
to make a statement of their findings. Both 
Muhlenburg and Venable complied, to Hamilton's 
itisfaction. Monroe quibbled and dodged, until 
milton denounced his conduct as malevolent and 
(honorable, adding that if he resented the charac- 
lation a challenge from him would be accepted; 
lUt Monroe refrained. Monroe seems to have be- 
lieved that he had Hamilton in such a fix that he 
could not move further in the business, but it was 
not in him to know what such a man as Hamilton 
would do. There was no shame, no disgrace, that 
he would not endure rather than rest under any 


charge against his integrity. So he came out with 
the whole wTetched business, telling in complete 
detail the stoiy of his relations with Mrs. Reynolds. 
It was the old story — a woman who came with a 
sad tale to get a personal interview and who made 
xise of the opportionity to get a new protector. Both 
she and her husband worked the affair for all they 
could get out of it. Hamilton told the whole story, 
appending all letters, papers, and documents having 
any connection with it, fifty-two in ntmaber, the 
whole making a bulky pamphlet. In it Hamilton 
quite justly observed that his desire to destroy this 
scandal completely led him to a more copious and 
particular examination of it than was really neces- 
sary, and every one must agree to his summing up 
of the case: 

The bare perusal of the letters from Reynolds and his 
wife is sufficient to convince my greatest enemy that there 
is nothing worse in the affair than an irregular and in- 
delicate amour. For this, I bow to the just censure 
which it merits. I have paid pretty severely for the folly, 
and can never recollect it without disgust and self-con- 
demnation. It might seem affectation to say more. 

The Reynolds pamphlet, while it will always pre- 
clude in Hamilton's case the mythic veneration that 
has collected about some pohticians of that period 
who were really shabby fellows, did have the effect 
of stamping out for good and aU slander as to Hamil- 
ton's honesty. The manliness with which he had i 


*aced every accusation affected even inveterate 
enemiffl. It was a significant mark of esteem when 
in ApriJ, 1798, the high-minded statesman, Governor 
Jay, asked Hamilton's permission to appoint him 
United States Senator to fil] a vacancy that had 
occmred. Hamilton replied that his situation 
bilged him to decline the appointment, adding: 
f^There may arrive a crisis when I may conceive 
i myself bound once more to sacrifice the interests of 
my family to public call. But I must defer the 
change as long as possible." 
The situation in which Hamilton stood at that 
ne forbade the acceptance of any post that would 
nterfere with his legal practice. On returning to 
New York after leaving Washington's Cabinet, he 
took a small house at 56 Pine Street, later removing 

K58 Partition Street (now Fulton Street), thence 
Liberty Street, near Broadway, and thence to 
Broadway, where he lived until 1S02. In 179S, 
in conjunction with his brother-in-law John B. 
Church, he leased a country house, near where some 
years later he acquired a tract of land and built a 
house, calling the place "The Grange," after the 
name of the ancestral home of the Hamiltons in 
icotland. It was then considered to be far out in 
^e country. The house he built is still preserved, 
ut it has been removed from its original site, 
which was what is now the comer of 142d Street 
and Tenth Avenue. His home plans were in mind 


■ inys 
B_ Tb 



when he refused Jay's offer. His law practice 
brought him about $12,000 a year, then reckoned 
a large income, and he could not afford the loss he 
would have sustained by attendance in Congress, 
then about to shift from Philadelphia to Wash- 

But, while the stress of these circimistances must 
be recognized, a situation resulted which had dire 
consequences. Hamilton's irresistible vocation for 
statesmanship now operated under conditions that 
produced an extraordinary system of cabal and in- 
trigue the collapse of which wrecked the Federalist 
party. And yet it is scarcely possible to mention 
a particular in which Hamilton himself was in the 
wrong. Events moved with the inexorable sequence 
of a Greek tragedy, individuals seeming to be the 
mere counters of fate. It all started from a false 
situation which was not of Hamilton's creation. 
Washington had virtually forced upon him the office 
of managing director of the Administration. All the 
members of the Cabinet, as it took shape in Washing- 
ton's second term, looked to him for help and guid- 
ance in every important emergency. During Wash- 
ington's time the relation had the character of a 
frank and honorable intimacy. With the succession 
of John Adams it became covert and secretive, not 
by direct intention but by gradual acceptance of a 
false situation. 



rADAMS and Hamilton felt mutual dislike, dating 
I from the time when Adams was prominent among 
I the lawyer politicians who got control of the Con- 
Ttinental Congress, and Hamilton was active in ad- 
' vocating measures to repress Congressional jobbery 
and mismanagement. Adams was a vain, irascible, 
gamJous pedant, in whose nature there was a 
mixture of habitual effrontery with physical timidity 
rarely found except among lawyers. His defects 
of character were well known to the Federalist lead- 
ers, who from the outset of his Administration re- 
garded it as a party duty to humor and manage him 
for his own good. Wolcott, of Connecticut, wrote 
to his son, Hamilton's successor in the Treasury De- 
partment, that Adams was "a man of great vanity, 
pretty capricious, of a very moderate share of pru- 
Idence, and of far less real abilities than he believes 
ihimself to possess," so that "it will require a great 
J of address to render him the service which it will 
9 essential for him to receive." 
Adams's dislike of Hamilton derived additional 
SBttemeas from some features of the Presidential 
wtion of 1796. At that time the electors each 

voted for two candidates without designating who 
should be President and who Vice-Presddent. 
Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, was asaociated 
with Adama on the Federalist ticket, and Hamilton 
recommended both to the solid support of the Fedei^ 
alist members of the electoral college. But Hamil- 
ton foresaw that Pinckney would receive Southern 
votes that would not go to Adams, and that if both 
were solidly supported in the North Pinckney would 
come out ahead and get the Presidency. The New 
York, New Jersey, and Delaware electors voted 
solidly as Hamilton had recommended, but South 
Carolina voted for Jefferson and Pinckney, and 
moreover Pinckney received scattering votes else- 
where in the South, which would have insured his 
election had he received the soUd support of the 
Federalist electors in New England, but eighteen 
of them cut Pinckney to make sure that he should 
not sHp in ahead of Adams, with the result of elect- 
ing Jefferson as Vice-President. Adams received 
only three electoral votes more than Jefferson, and 
for the narrowness of this margin he blamed Hamil- 
ton, who was certainly in no way responsible for it, 
although he had anticipated the South Carolina 
straddle, and had made plans with a view to that 
occurrence. On the other hand, Adams felt so 
kindly toward Jefferson, his old Congressional chum, 
that expressions of satisfaction over Jefferson's elec- 
tion instead of Pinckney's came from the Adams cii^ 





de. Jefferson made friendly advances to Adams 
and wrote to Madison suggesting that "it would be 
worthy of consideration whether it would not be 
to the public good to come to a good understanding 
with him as to his futiu* elections." The Federalist 
leaders were dismayed on hearing that Adams was 
conferring with Jefferson as to the policy of the Ad- 
ministration before he had had any conference with 
his own Cabinet. 

What Adams had in mind was not a bad idea had 
it been at all practicable. He thought a good im- 
pr^sion might be made by sending a mission to 
France of exceptional weight and dignity, and he 
wanted Jefferson to go as its head. Jefferson of 
course declined, but was suave and tactful in his 
refusal. Adams then proposed Madison, and Jef- 
ferson undertook to see him about the matter; but 
soon reported that Madison too felt unable to ac- 
cept the honor. Then at last Adams decided to 

infer with his Cabinet, whose members had mean- 

'hile become alarmed at his beha\'ior. Adams had 

taken over the Cabinet just as Washington had left 

it. All its members were devoted to Hamilton and 

were accustomed to seek his advice. They all be- 

writing to him, telling him what was going on 

id asking his help in preparing measures, making 
■Hamilton's office in New York a more important 
administrative centre than Adams's own office at 
the seat of government. 


There is no sign that Hamilton used his influence 
to do any harm to Adams. In fact he cleared the 
way several times to Adams's advantage, although 
Adams did not know it. The attitude of the Cabinet 
was decidedly hostile to Adajns's pet scheme of a 
special mission to France. It was Hamilton's ad- 
vice that secured their approval of the project, and 
he also brought his friends in the Senate to its sup- 
port. He prepared for Secretaiy Wolcott a scheme 
of taxation by which the revenue could be increaaed 
to provide for national defense, and he prepared 
for Secretary McHenry, of the War Department, a 
scheme of military and naval preparations which, 
though it was not adopted in its entirety, greatly 
augmented the resources of the Administration and 
was the most important factor in producing more re- 
spectful treatment of American interests. Although 
he himself became a major-general in the army, 
Hamilton's advice was strongly in favor of making 
the navy the principal arm of national power. The 
French Government had characterized the Jay 
treaty as a violation of American engagements with 
France and had retaliated by seizing American 
vessels, confiscating their cargoes, and imprisoning 
hundreds of American citizens. Adams's special 
mission was received with insult and accomplished 
nothing, but when the little American navy got 
busy results followed that were impressive. During 
the two years and a half in which hostilities con- 



' tinued eighty-five anned ves els were taken and only 
one American vessel was lost in action, and that 
one had been originally a captured French vessel. 
Most of the vessels taken were privateers, but there 
were two hai-d-fought actions in which heavily 
armed French frigates were defeated. The value of 
the protection given to American commerce was 
demonstrated by the increase of exports from $57,- 
000,000 in 1797 to $78,665,528 in 1799. 
L Among the experiences of Adams's fecial mission 
■- was a notice that they should not receive a friendly 

■ reception unless they were prepared to give as a 
"douceur to the Directory," a sum of money amoxmt- 
ing to about $240,000. The story of this affair was 
told in the famous X Y Z dispatches, so known 
from the letters used in the papers laid before Con- 
gress, in place of the actual names of Talleyrand's 

■ tiiree agents in pressing the demand. A wave of 
" indignation swept the country, and, although Jeffer- 
son argued that the French Government ought not 
to be held responsible for "the turpitude of swin- 
dlers," his party in Congress was soon reduced to a 
feeble and dispirited minority. Among the mea^ 
surcs now taken was one authorizing the President 
to raise a mihtary force of 10,000 men, the com- 
mander of which should have the services of "a 
suitable number of major-generals." There was 
nothing to suggest that this puny measure could 
Bupply an explosive to blow up the Federalist party. 


but such was the effect, owing to Adams's peculi- 

He started with a characteristic bungle. With- 
out any inquiiy as to whether the appointment 
would be acceptable, he named Washington aa the 
commander. When the news reached Hamilton 
he was much surprised, for he had supposed that 
every public man knew that Washington would not 
endure unceremonious treatment. He wrote at 
once to Washington urging him to overlook the im- 
propriety and give his consent. The only rational 
explanation of the tortuous course which Adams now 
pursued was that he meant to get the use of Wash- 
ington's name while retaining for himself actual con- 
trol over the arrangements. His letters phed Wash- 
ington with bland assurances and vague generalities. 
No one was less likely to be caught in that way than 
one of Washington's deliberate and methodical habits 
of action. He demanded exact stipulations as to 
his powers, including the right to appoint his major- 
generals. Adams avoided committing himself, but 
he instructed Secretary McHenry to obtain Wash- 
ington's advice, and Waslungton then recommended 
as major-generals Hamilton, C. C. Pinckney, and 
Knox, in that order of rank. Adams seemed to 
assent and the nominations were sent to the Senate 
in that order, but as soon as confirmation took place 
it then appeared that he was in the sulks. He left 
for his home at Quincy, Massachusetts, without 


' notice to his Cabinet, and when McHeruy wrote to 
him about proceeding with the oi^anization of the 
anny he replied that he would act as soon as Knox's 
precedence was acknowledged, and that the New 
England States would not submit to the humiliation 
of having Knox's claim disregarded. 

From August 4 to October 13 wrangling over this 
matter went on, Adams wrote to Washington that 
he had signed the commissions on the same day, in 
the hope "that an amicable adjustment or ac- 
quiescence might take place among the gentlemen 
themselves"; but, should this hope be disappointed 
"and controversies shall arise, they will of course 
be submitted to you as commander-in-chief." 
Adams wrote to McHenry that "there has been too 
much intrigue in this business, both for General 
Washington and for me"; that it might as well be 
understood that in any event he would have the 
last say, "and I shall then determine it exactly as 

y I should now, ICnox, Pinckney, and Hamilton." 
It was a painful feature of the dispute to Hamilton 
iiat it put his interest in opposition to that of 
IX, who while a member of Washington's Cabinet 
i alwaj's been Hamilton's fiim adherent. Hamil- 
ton wrote to Washington sajTng that Knox indeed 
had cause for complaint, since his rank in the old 
army had been so much higher than Hamilton's own 
rank. To McHenry he wrote: "I am pained to 
occasion to him pain for I have truly a warm side 

for him, and a high value for his merits; but my 
judgment tella me, and all I consult confiim it, that 
I camiot reasonably postpone myself in a ease in 
which a preference so important to the public in its 
present and future consequences has been given 
me." Wben news came that Knox would refuse an 
appointment that put him lowest in rank, Hamilton 
at once wrote to Washington, saying that he did 
not want to be the occasion of any embarrassment, 
and adding: "I shall cheerfully place myself in 
your disposal, and facilitate any arrangement you 
may think for the general good." 

But Washington, although he liked Knox per- 
sonally, was determined to have Hamilton as his 
chief assistant, and with good reason. Knox was 
now a stout, rubicund veteran, fond of jolly company 
and good cheer, which he enjoyed in profusion on 
the country estate in Maine to which he had retired. 
The importance of having a good oi^anizer in the 
principal post was enhanced by the fact that Sec- 
retary McHenry, a physician by profession, had 
little knowledge of militaiy affairs. Washington 
himself, when he made the appointment, charac- 
terized it as "Hobson's choice." So Washington 
insisted on his right to use his own judgment, as he 
had distinctly stipulated from the first. 

For months the deadlock halted action. Adams 
was obstinate; Washington was immovable. The 
suspense finally became so intolerable that 

The I 
t the J 


Cabinet acted without further consultation with the 
President about the matter. Secretary McHeniy 
submitted to his colleagues all the correspondence in 
the case and asked their advice. They made a 
joint reply that "the Secretary of War ought to 
transmit the commissions, and inform the generals 
that in his opinion the rank is definitely settled ac- 
cording to the original arrangement." This was 
done, but Knox declined an appointment ranking 
h irn below Hamilton and Pinckney, although Hamil- 
ton wrote to him in a futile attempt to soothe his 
feelings. The letter is in every way creditable to 
HamUton, both maiJy and tender, without any trace 
of insincerity or affectation. It was with entire truth 
he declared : " Be persuaded that the views of others, 
not my own, have given shape to what has taken 
place, and that there has been a serious struggle be- 

1 tween my respect and attachment for you and the 
ion of duty." 
, While this wretched squabble was going on Hamil- 
bn was trying to repress the spirit of arrogance that 
7 possessed the Federalist members of Congress, 
"hey acted as if their heads had been turned by 

*^ success, and they enacted some imprudent laws. 
Tlie period of residence required of an alien before 
he could be admitted to American citizenship was 
raised from five years to fourteen. The President 
was authorized to send out of the country "such 
aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and 


safety to the United States." The state of public 
opinion probably sanctioned these measures, but 
such was not the case with the famous sedition act, 
which made it a crime to write or publish "any false, 
scandalous, or malicious statements about the 
President or either House of Congress." As soon as 
Hamilton heard of the presentation of this measure 
he wrote a warning letter to Secretaiy Wolcott, say- 
ing: "Let us not establish a tyranny. Energy is a 
very different thing from violence." Later on he 
wrote to Senator Sedgwick, disapproving of the act as 
passed, declaring "it seems to me deficient in precau- 
tions against abuse and for the security of citizens." 
The restJt verified Hamilton's prediction to Wolcott 
that "if we push things to an extreme, we shall then 
give to faction body and solidity." Just that thing 
happened. The ahen and sedition laws gave the 
Jeffersonian party an issue on which they recovered 
their lost ground. 

In communicating the X Y Z dispatches to 
Congress Adams declared: "I will never send an- 
other Minister to France without assurance that he 
will be received, respected, and honored, as the rep- 
resentative of a great, free, powerful, and inde- 
pendent nation." But later on he changed his 
mind and, without consulting his Cabinet, he nomi- 
nated a minister to France. This unexpected action 
stunned the Federalists and delighted the Jefferson- 
ians. "Had the foulest heart and the ablest head 


H in the wo 


in the world," wrote Senator Sedgwick to Hamilton, 
"been permitted to select the most embarrassing and 
niinouB measure, perhaps it would have been pre- 
cisely the one which has been adopted." Hamil- 
ton's mediation now again made a smooth course 
for Adams. While he thought Adams had taken an 
unwise step, he advised that "the measure must go 
into effect with the additional idea of a commission 
of three." The matter was settled in this way, 
much to Adams's gratification. By the time the 
commission reached France, Bonaparte was in 
power. The envoys were decently received and 
were able to make an acceptable settlement of dif- 
ferences between the two coimtries. 

As the Presidential election approached, efforts, 
in which Hamilton took part, were made to find a 
substitute for Adams as the party candidate, but 
they proved unavailing, as New England still clung 
to Adams, since to let him go meant the loss of the 
Presidency for that section. There was some talk 
of bringing out Washington again, but if any hopes 
were really entertained in that quarter they were 
destroyed by his death on December 14, 1799. 
When word of these proceedings reached Adams the 
wrath that filled his bosom ever since he had been 
baffled in the matter of the army appointments 
now boiled over. He decided to rid himself of men 
whom he characterized as "Hamilton's spies." 
The first to be dismissed was McHem^', on May 5, 



1800, alter an interview in which — as reported by 
McHeniy himself — Adams accused him of having 
"biassed General Washington to place Hamilton in 
his list of major-generaJs before Knox." On May 
12 Secretary Pickering of the State Department 
was dismissed. Secretary Wolcott of the Treasuiy 
Department stayed on until the end of the year, 
when he resigned of his own motion. In thiis re- 
constituting his Cabinet Adams was entirely within 
his rights. A President ought to have as his ad- 
visers those who have his confidence and with whom 
he feels disposed to confer, and Adams would have 
acted wisely if he had selected friends of his own at 
the outset. But his taking such action in the midat 
of a Presidential campaign was not an exercise of 
good judgment but was an outbreak of his bad 
temper. He then went from bad to worse by raging 
against Hamilton, and the style of his remarks may 
be imagined from the fact that years after, when he 
had had plenty of time to cool down, he referred to 
Hamilton as the "bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar." 
Talk of this sort might have been ignored as a char- 
acteristic specimen of Adams's behavior when in a 
rage, but he was foolish enough to attack Hamilton's 
integrity and patriotism, and at no time would 
Hamilton submit to that. When news came that 
Adams was now reiterating the old calumnies, 
Hamilton wrote to Adams asking whether it was 
true that Adams had "asserted the existence of a 



^ptiBh faction" of which Hamilton himself was 
said to be a member. Adams made no reply. 
Hamilton waited for two months, and then wrote 
again, declaring "that by whomsoever a charge of 
the kind mentioned in my former letter, may, at 
any time, have been made or insinuated against me, 
it ia a base, wicked, and crael calumny; destitute 
even of a plausible pretext, to excuse the folly, or 
mask the depravity which must have dictated it." 
Even this shaip language did not move Adams to 
r^ly. He could be a backbiter, but when called 
to account he took refuge in obstinate silence. 

Hamilton's natural indignation now led him to 
commit a great political blunder. Since he had de- 
cided to support Adams as his party candidate his 
personal grievance should have been subordinated 
to hie sense of duty, but so great was his indignation 
that his feelings escaped control, and he wrote a 
scathing analysis of "The Public Conduct and Char- 
acter of John Adams," for distribution among a 
few leading Federalists. Although it advised sup- 
port of Adams's candidacy, as the only feasible 
course in existing circimistances, it exhibited him 
as so unfit for the office that acceptance of him could 
be justified only as a choice among evils. Aaron 
Burr managed to get hold of a copy, and he made 
such use of portions that Hamilton felt obliged to 
publish it in full. It was more damaging to Hamil- 
ton himself than it was to Adams, for Hamilton had 


more to lose in reputation. Even Robert Troup, 
Hamilton's friend from boyhood, wrote: "The in- 
fluence of this letter upon Hamilton's character is 
extremely imf ortunate. An opinion has grown out 
of it, which at present obtains almost universally, 
that his character is radically deficient in discre- 
tion. Hence he is considered as an unfit head of 
the party." The letter did not really affect the 
result, as all the electors chosen in the Federalist 
interest voted for Adams, and a Jeffersonian ma- 
jority in the electoral college had been assured by 
the State elections in Pennsylvania and New York 
before the letter appeared. The truth of the matter 
is that the result of the Presidential election was de- 
cided by the way in which Aaron Burr had previ- 
ously outgeneralled and defeated Hamilton in New 



' Aaron Buee's reputation has been so blackened, 
that it is hard to view the man aa he really was; 
but one may get a just exhibition of his character 
from Chesterfield's Letters, for Burr fuUy realized 
the ideal therein portrayed, both in its merit and 
in its defect. He had the poise, address, polish, 
courage, and fortitude of the type, together with its 
self-centred nature and epicurean morality, attained 
in his case by intellectual emancipation from the 
tradition which he had inherited from an eminent 
line of Puritan ancestors. Only a year older than 
Hamilton, Burr showed almost as brilhant capacity 
in his school-days, and in 1775, about the same time 
that Hamilton joined the Continental Army in New 
York, he took pai't in Benedict Arnold's march on 
Quebec as a volunteer. In that unfortimate ex- 
pedition Burr showed ability, courage, and resource- 
fulness of the highrat order. Returning to New 
York, he was for a time one of Washington's aides, 
but disUking the confinement he effected a transfer 
to General Putnam's command and was active in 
the battles about New York and the retreat through 
New Jersey. In 1777 he had risen to the rank of 


lieutenant^colonel, and was in actual command of a 
regiment detailed for scouting duty in New Jersey. 
It was while thus engaged that he first met Mrs. 
Prevost, the widow of a British officer, who eventu- 
ally became his wife. The marriage, which took 
place in 1782, is certainly evidence that Burr was 
capable of disinterested attachment, for she had 
neither wealth, position, nor beauty, and was about 
ten years his senior; but she had intelligence, re- 
finement, and charming manners, and he appears 
to have been a devoted husband. The fact that his 
wife was an English woman was a circumstance 
used against Burr in the abominable party warfare 
of the times. 

Burr, who was small in stature like H fl.iinil t.on 
himself, was so broken in health by rough living in 
the field that in 1779 he resigned his commission. 
He was well established at the Albany bar at the 
time Hamilton was beginning his studies, but when 
the migration to New York took place, in 1783, 
Hamilton stood with him in the first rank of lawyers. 
Burr was elected to the Assembly in 1784 on a ticket 
which included some of Hamilton's friends. He was 
then generally classed with the violent Whigs, who 
favored a policy of proscription, but when Ham- 
ilton began his brilhant and effective campaign 
against that policy, Burr did not join in the fray 
but dropped out of politics for the time. He was 
so quiescent in the struggle over the adoption of the 


Constitution that he could be counted on neither 
side. Hamilton subsequently characterized Burr's 
conduct in that emergency as "equivocal." In 
1788 Burr allowed his name to be put upon a legis- 
lative ticket presented by the defeated Antifederal- 
ists, but he was not active in the canvass and he 
may have been actuated merely by a desire to serve 
friends who were striving to keep alive their party 
with a view to the future. In 1789, by one of those 
twists which the factious character of New York 
politics couJd produce at any time on occasion, 

^uiT figui-ed with Hamilton, Troup, and others of 
B!amUton's friends on a committee selected to sup- 
crt the candidacy of Judge Yates for Governor. 
Burr's action was regarded to be a straightforward 
isplay of personal friendship. He was grateful to 
STates for kind services when Burr was starting in 
iie law, and he never failed to do what he could 
tor Yates thereafter. Hamilton's motive was, how- 
rver, merely to use Yates's candidacy to split the 
utifederalist vote and thus defeat Clinton, but 

'Clinton defeated the formidable combination by a 
narrow majority, obtained through the circum- 
stance that his home county, Ulster, gave him an 
almost unanimous vote. Clinton, with a shrewd 
magnanimity which goes far to explain the popu- 
larity which six times elected him Governor, selected 
Burr as his Attorney-General, the appointment tak- 
ing effect in September, 1789. 


Hamilton appears to have remained on good terms 
with Burr until 1791, when General Schuyler came 
up for re-election to the United States Senate. No 
candidate appeared in opposition to him, and his was 
the only name presented, but when the vote was 
taken there were more nays than ayes. So far as 
one can judge, in a case where there is nothing of 
record to go upon, the result was due to personal 
antipathies excited by Schuyler's vehement partisan- 
ship. Somebody had to be chosen, and one of the 
Senators proposed Burr, the vote resulting twelve to 
four. When the news reached the House Burr was 
put in nomination there too, and he received a 
majority of five votes, thus winning the election. 

Although a letter of Schuyler's refers to Burr as 
"the principal in this business," the available evi- 
dence indicates that the unexpected result was a 
chance concentration of favor owing to Burr's high 
social and professional standing and to the fact that 
he was regarded as a moderate man in poHtics, stand- 
ing apart from the regular factions. John Adams, 
in one of his familiar letters, wrote: "I have never 
known the prejudice in favor of birth, parentage, and 
descent more conspicuous than in the case of Colonel 
Burr." In substituting Burr for Schuyler the mem- 
bers of the legislatxu-e did not in the least feel that 
they were lowering the quality of State representar 
tion at the national capital. But the defeat of his 
father-in-law seems to have supplied Hamilton with 


a grudge against Burr that was pursued with the 
constancy of a Scottish clan feud. Close examina- 
tion of Hamilton's correspondence leaves no doubt 
that his feeling against Burr had in it personal en- 
mity as well as antagonism on public grounds. He 
is severely critical of the behavior of Madison and 
Jefferson, but he preserves his dignity; when he 
speaks of Burr he falls into reviling. This spirit 
does not crop out in his correspondence until after 
Burr was preferred to Schuyler in the senatorial 
election. Then Burr is described as a thoroughly 
unprincipled character, "for or against nothing, but 
as it suits his interest or ambition"; and Hamilton 
declared, "I feel it to be a religious duty to oppose 
his career." 

H amilton constantly acted in this spirit toward 
Burr, and his behavior was such that, according to 
the manners of the times, he gave ample provocation 
for the duel in which their rivalry culminated. In- 
deed, it may be said that for years before the fatal 
meeting they carried on a political duel in which 
Hamilton was at a disadvantage through the warmth 
of his feelings, whUe Burr acted with a cool caJcula- )l 
tion which gave him superior ability as a tactician. 
At that time only freeholders with an estate of £100 
above all liens had the franchise. In 1789, out of 
a population of 324,270 in the State, the poll was 
only 12,353, Hence New York politics were largely 
imder the control of a few influential families. Any 




change, in the attitude of the Livingstons, the 
Schuylere and the Clintons had political conse- 
quences. Conditions were favorable for the crafty 
diplomacy in which Burr excelled. 

Although the records are so meagre that positive 
statement is scarcely warranted, Burr does not ttp- 
pear to have pursued a factious course as a member 
of the United States Senate. No complaint against 
him on that score is made in Hanulton'a correspon- 
dence. Although generally classed as Antifederalist, 
Burr seems to have occupied rather an independent 
and detached position with respect to party politics, 
and he certainly obtained a reputation for calm- 
ness and moderation that extended beyond aH 
party bounds. Early in 1792 there was a movement 
in the Federalist party in New York in favor of 
sphtting the Antifederalist vote by taking up 
Binr as a candidate against Clinton, but Hamilton's 
influence was successfully exerted against the scheme. 
After the election, Clinton nominated Burr as judge 
of the Supreme Court of the State, but the office was 
declined. Such a succession of public honors as had 
come to Burr, together with the ability and dignity 
with which he behaved, caused him to be nationally 
regarded as a rising man. In the Presidential elec- 
tion of 1792 one of the South Carolina electors east 
a vote for him in preference to John Adams as Vice- 
President, and in 1796 Burr received thirty electoral 

M ^ latei 


In later years, John Adams related that when 
Burr's term in the Senate expired he was loath to 
contiQue law practice and woidd have rejoiced in 
an army appointment. Adams proposed to Wash- 
ington that Burr should be appointed brigadiei^ 
general in the army then being oi:ganized. Accord- 
ing to Adams this arrangement waa defeated through 
Hamilton's influence. If this be true, — and such 
evidence as is available supports Adams's opinion, — 
Burr was not allowed to escape from a position of 
professional and political rivahy to Hamilton in 
New York. If Hamilton supposed that he could 
crush BiuT he made a sad miscalculation. For the 
moment Hamilton's power seemed to be secure. 
John Jay had been elected Governor in 1795 and he 
was re-elected in 1798 by what in those times was 
reckoned a large majority. Although Burr was 
elected to the Assembly from New York City in 
1798, on coming up for re-election in 1799 he waa 
heavily defeated and as the Presidential election of 
1800 came on the Federalist party was in power both 
in city and State. The prospects of the opposition 
were poor, when Burr took charge of the campaign, 
which he managed with consummate skill. After 
much negotiation he made up a ticket headed by 
ex-Governor Clinton, with Brockholst Livingston 
as an associate, thus allying two great famOy con- 
nections. General Horatio Gates was brought out 
of his retirement to draw to the ticket feelings and 


sympathies inspired by the War of Independence. 
Every name on the ticket was picked with a view to 
personal influence, and Burr himself shrewdly re- 
frained from including his own name in the list of 
city candidates, although at the same election he 
figured as a candidate in Orange C uiity. 

So powerful was the combination which Btur's 
management effected that it swept eveiything be- 
fore it in the election. Hamilton's ticket was heavily 
defeated, and so great was the shock that his char- 
acter gave way under it. As soon as it became clear 
that a legislature had been elected that would choose 
Presidential electors favorable to Jefferson, he wrote 
to Governor Jay proposing that the outgoing legis- 
lature should be convoked in special session to pass 
a law requiring Presidential electors to be chosen in 
districts by popular vote. In this way the defeated 
Federalists might still get some of the New York 
electoral votes, and Hamilton urged that "in times 
like these in which we live, it will not do to be over- 
scrupulous." Jay filed the letter with the indorse- 
ment, "Proposing a measure for party purposes 
which it would not become me to adopt." 

The loss of the New York electoral votes defeated 
Adams and yet did not elect Jefferson, by reason of 
the complications of the electoral system. The 
original draft of the Constitution provided that the 
President should be elected by Congress, which 
arrangement would have given the United States 



a constitution much like the present constitution 
of Switzerland. But the smaU States feared that 
this would put the Presidency in the continual pos- 
session of the large States, and to remove such ob- 
jection the scheme of the electoral college was pro- 
posed and accepted as a fair compromise. It was 
supposed that this would advantage the small 
States, because in each State the electors should 
vote for two persons, only one of whom could be 
a citizen of that State, thus insuring some dis- 
tribution of the vote on general considerations. But 
the scheme never worked according to this theory, 
and its comphcations have always been trouble- 
some and, indeed, perilous. It is plain that when 
the electoral colleges began to vote sohdly imder a 
party mandate there would be a tie between the 
persons voted for. This is just what happened in 
the election of ISOO. The electoral votes of the 
Jeffersonian Republican party were all cast for 
Jefferson and Burr, so the election did not decide 
who should be President and who Vice-President. 
The Constitution provides that in ease no one re- 
I ceives a majority in the electoral colleges the House 
of Representatives shall make the choice for Presi- 
dent, each State delegation to cast one vote. A 
House of Representatives elected two years before, 
when popular sentiment was running in favor of 
the Federalists, now had the say as between Jeflfer- 
Bon and Burr. There was a strong movement among 


the Federalists in favor of preferring Burr, and to 
counteract this Hamilton wrote letters to his friends 
in Congress attacking Burr, whom he described as 
a man of daring, energy, inordinate ambition, with- 
out probity, a voluptuaiy by system, simk in debt, 
and yet indulging himself in habits of excessive ex- 
pense, with great talents "for management and in- 
trigue, but he had yet to give the first proofs that 
they are equal to the act of governing well." An 
unpleasant feature of these letters is their telltale 
character. One finds no analysis of Burr's pubhc 
record such as Hamilton made in writing against 
Jefferson and Madison; but instead one is told of 
Burr's profligate sentiments avowed in private talk, 
as, for instance, that he quoted with gusto Napo- 
leon's sa3Tng that "great souls care little for small 

To a large extent Hamilton's judgment of Burr's 
character was verified by his subsequent career, but, 
at the time Hamilton was denouncing Burr as a 
man without moral principle. Burr himself waa be- 
having in a way that looked very like inflexible hon- 
esty. Before the actual result of the voting by the 
electoral colleges was known, Burr wrote to a 
friend in the House of Representatives that, if it 
should turn out to be a tie, "every man who knows 
me ought to know that I would utterly disclaim all 
competition" with Jefferson for the Presidency. 
He added: "As to my friends, they would dishonor 


my views and insult my feelings by a suspicion that 
I would submit to be instrumental in counteracting 
the wishes and ejq)ectation3 of the United States. 
And I now constitute you my proxy to declare these 
sentiments if the occasion should require." 

Language could not be more plain and straight- 
forward than was used in this letter, and as it was 
made pubUc it clearly defined Burr's position as one 
of opposition to any attempt to defeat Jefferson. 
According to Hamilton, this position was a piece 
of deep finesse, based upon the expectation that 
rather than take Jefferson the House would accept 
Burr without any effort or commitment on his 
part. But how can this view be reconciled with the 
existence of those great talents for intrigue which 
Hamilton ascribed to Burr? Examination of the 
evidence leaves scarcely a doubt that had Bxirr been 
willing to negotiate he could have been elected Presi- 
dent. Hamilton's attacks seem to have been so 
Eiieffectual in arresting the drift of party sentiment 
I Burr's favor that one may infer that Hamilton's 
^ws of Burr's character were not accepted by men 
|rho also were in a position to form their views on 
►ersonal knowledge. Hamilton refers to their favor 
as "a mad propensity," but the fact is significant 
that acute and well-informed men should have had 
this propensity in spite of his strong censure. Sena- 
tor Bayard, of Delaware, to whom Hamilton wrote 
the most severe of his letters against Biur, replied 



that "the means existed of electing Burr, but this 
required his co-operation." This Burr steadfastly 
decUned to give. Hamilton himseif, in giving an 
account of the situation to a New York friend, wrote: 
"I know as a fact that overtures have been made by 
leading individuals of the Federal party to Mr. 
Burr, who declines to give any assurances respecting 
his future intentions and conduct." Some such 
assurances were, however, given in behalf of Jeffer- 
son, who was elected President through the action 
of some of the Federalist members in refraining from 
voting at all. Before the deadlock was broken a 
Federalist member of the House, WiUiam Cooper, 
father of the famous novelist, wrote from Washing- 
ton, "Had Burr done anything for himself he would 
long ere this have been President." After it was 
all over Senator Bayard wrote to Hamilton that this 
result was not obtained until it had been " completely 
ascertained that Burr was resolved not to commit 

It does not seem possible to reconcile Burr's be- 
havior under such great temptation with Hamil- 
ton's characterization of him as a man whose "sole 
spring of action is an inordinate ambition," and 
who is "wicked enough to scruple nothing." That 
such opinions were not held by other Federalist 
leaders is shown by the fact that respect for Burr 
remained strong among the Federalists despite 
Hamilton's efforts. Three years later, when Burr 


came out as an independent candidate for governor 
of New York, Hamilton wrote: "It is a fact to be 
regretted, though anticipated, that the Federalists 
very extensively had embarked with zeal in the 
Bupport of Mr. Burr." Hamilton thought of bring- 
ing out a Federalist candidate, but finding that im- 
practicable, his influence was exerted in favor of 
the regular Republican candidate and Burr was 

Although he must have been well aware of Hamil- 
ton's activity against him at every turn, Burr seems 
to have avoided personal enmity and always bore 
himself with his habitual dignity and composure. 
In one of his denunciatory letters Hamilton re- 
marked: "With Burr I have always been personally 
well." Of course Burr would have called Hamilton 
to account for the attacks upon his character had 
they been publicly made; but Burr made no move 
so long as they were confined to private correspon- 
dence, although their tenor had become a matter of 
common fame and a spiteful newspaper put the 
query, "Is the Vice-President sunk so low as to sub- 
mit to be insulted by General Hamilton?" 

During the political campaign a letter had been 
published in which Doctor Charles D. Cooper said 
that Hamilton declared Burr to be a dangerous 
man, adding: "I could detail to you a still more 
despicable opinion which General Hamilton has 
expressed of Mr. Burr." Apparently Burr did not 


hear of this publication at the time, but six weeks 
after the election he received notice of it. He sent 
a friend to Hamilton with a copy of the publication, 
together with a note in which Burr observed: 
"You must perceive, Sir, the necessity of a prompt 
and unqualified acknowledgment or denial of the 
use of any expressions which would warrant the 
assertions of Mr. Cooper," Hamilton was taken 
by surprise, as he had not before heard of Cooper's 
letter. He asked time for consideration and did 
not reply until two days later. He was in a difficult 
position, as the letter did not really misrepresent 
him. The gist of his long reply was that he could 
not consent "to be interrogated as to the justness of 
inferences which others might have drawn from what 
he had said of a political opponent in the course of 
fifteen years competition," but he stood "ready to 
avow or disavow, promptly and explicitly, any pre- 
cise or definite opinion which I may be charged with 
having declared of any gentleman." ^urr replied 
that a dishonorable epithet had been applied to him 
under the sanction of Hamilton's name, and the sole 
question was whether Hamilton had authorized this 
application, either directly or by uttering expressions 
or opinions derogatory to his honor. Hamilton 
replied that he had "no other answer to give than 
that which has already been given."_ This closed 
the correspondence between the prmcipals, and the 
affair now passed into the hands of their seconds, 



who carried on further correspondence without 
modifying the attitude of the principals, and, accord- 
ing to the manners of the times, the two men being 
what they were, a duel was the necessary conse- 

The correspondence closed on June 27, 1804, but 
time was allowed for the principals to put their 
affairs in order before the duel. So it happened 
that Burr and Hamilton met as courteous table- 
mates on the 4th of July at the annual banquet 
of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which both 
were members. It was noted that while Burr's 
habitual reserve was more intense than usual, 
Hamilton's characteristic animation rose to a pitch of 
gayety. He was urged to give the company the old 
balIa4f"The Drum," which was one of his songs on 
occasions of merry-making. He seemed unusually 
reluctant to comply, but finally yielded. He had 
a rich voice and he sang with impressive effect the 
verses which told how a recruiting sergeant knocked 
at the paraon's door, and said: 


"We're going to war, and when we die 
We'll want a man of God near by. 
So bring your Bible and follow the drum." 

ile Hamilton was singing Burr leaned upon the 
table looking up into his face until the song was done. 
One of Hamilton's last acts was to prepwe a 


statement as to his motives in meeting Burr. In it 
he admitted that hie " animadversions on the political 
principles, character, and views of Colonel Burr have 
been extremely severe," and that while he certainly 
had strong reasons for what he said, it is possible 
that in some particulars he may have been influenced 
by misconstruction or misinformation. He added: 

It is also my ardent wish that I may have been more 
mistaken than I think I have been; and that he, by his 
future conduct, may show himself worthy of all confidence 
and esteem and prove an ornament and a blessing to the 
country. As well, because it is possible that I may have 
injured Colonel Burr, however convinced myself that my 
opinions and declarations have been well founded, as 
from my general principles and temper in relation to simi- 
lar affairs, I iiave resolved, if our interview is conducted 
in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the 
opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and 
I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire, and thus 
giving a double opportunity to Colonel Burr to pause 
and reflect. It is not, however, my intention to enter 
into any explanations on the ground. Apology from 
principle, I hope, rather than pride, is out of the ques- 

Hamilton left two farewell letters to his wife. 
One, written on July 4, ended with "Adieu, best of 
wives — best of women. Embrace all my darling 
children for me." In the night before the duel he 
bethought him of Mrs. Mitchell's kindness to him 
in his youth, and he wrote again to commend het 


to his wife's good offices. This letter closed with 
"Adieu, my darling, darling wife." 

The meeting took place at seven o'clock, Wednes- 
day morning, July 11, at Weehawken, on the west 
bank of the Hudson, then a noted duelling-groimd. 
They fought at ten paces. Lots were drawn as to 
choice of position and as to giving the word, Hamil- 
ton's second winning in both cases. Hamilton was 
shot in the right side; Burr was imtouched. Hamil- 
ton died the next day at two o'clock in the afternoon, 
aged forty-seven years and six months. 



In 1797 Hamilton received from Scotland a family 
letter making inqxiiries expressive of the interest 
of the family home stock in his fame and achieve- 
ments. In response he gave an account of his 
career, in which he said that he entered public life 
because, having promoted the movement for a new 
Constitution, he conceived himself to be under an 
obKgation to lend his aid toward putting the ma- 
chine in some regular motion, and hence he accepted 
Washington's offer to undertake the office of Secre- 
tary of the Treasuiy. He continued: 

In that office I met with many intrinsic difficulties 
and many artificial ones, proceeding from pas^ons, not 
very worthy, common to hmnan nature, and which act 
with peculiar force in republics. The object, however, 
was effected of establishing public credit and introducing 
order in the finances. 

Public office in this country has few attractions. The 
pecuniary emolument is so inconsiderable as to amount 
to a sacrifice to any man who can employ his time with 
advantage in any liberal profession. The opportunity of 
doing good, from the jealousy of power and the spirit of 
faction, is too small in any station to warrant a long con- 
tinuance of private sacrifices. 



This was a mood that became more confirmed in 
Hamilton's mind as time went on, and on some oc- 
casions swerved his conduct from the chivalric 
ideals that ordinarily governed it. The strongest 
instance is that unworthy letter to Jay proposing a 
partisan trick to set aside election results. Another 
instance of low calculation was a letter to Senator 
Bayard, m 1802, in which Hamilton proposed that 
an association should be formed to be denominated 
"The Christian Constitutional Society/' its objects 
to be "the support of the Christian religion; the 
support of the Constitution of the United States." 
No man would have so thoroughly disdained such 
claptrap as Hamilton himself when acting in his 
proper character, and it is noticeable that he made 
no attempt to push the precious scheme of making 
religion a pohtical stalking-horse. The notion was 
doubtless the outcome of a mood of discouragement 
such as occasionally afflicted him in the latter part 
of his career. It was in such a mood, diu-ing the 
same year, that he wrote to Gouvemeur Morris: 

Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the 
United 8tatea has sacrificed or done more for the present 
Constitution than myself, and contrary to all my antici- 
pations of its fate, as you know from the very beginning, 
I am still laboring to prop the frail and worthless fabric. 
Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the 
curses of its foes for my reward. What can I do better 
than withdraw from the scene? Every day proves to 


I me more and more that this American world was not 
' made for me. 

When Hamilton reviewed his career, with calcukp 
tion of results rather than in that spirit of chivaliy 
whose heroic and generoxis action is disdainful of 
profit, there was much in it that looked like failure. 
Against the remonstrances of his nearest friends he 
had given up his law practice, exposing his family 
to poverty, to lift the public business out of bank- 
ruptcy, and his own recompense had been calumny, 
persecution, and loss of fortxme. His principal 
opponent in matters of administrative policy had 
shown such superior address in all the arts of popu- 
larity that he had reached the Presidency and was 
now victoriously sweeping away all rivaliy to his 
mastery over the succession to that office. The 
Government itself had been given a twist that had 
frustrated the constitutional design of direct ad- 
ministrative proposals, and had introduced a system 
of committee management which was in effect a 
return to the methods of the Continental Congress. 
"Committees are the ministei^," wrote Fisher Ames 
to Hamilton in 1797, "and while the House indulges 
a jealousy of encroachment in its functions which 
are properly deliberative, it does not perceive that 
these are impaired and nullified by the monopoly 
as well as the perversion of information by these 
committees." The vices which Hamilton had noted 
in the old system — "tedious delays, continual nego- 


tiation and intrigue, contemptible compromises of 
the public good " — had reappeared in the new system, 
with increased virulence. With no regular means 
existing by which Congress should be confronted by 
responsibiMties exactly defined and decisively sub- 
mitted, the electorate had nothing to go upon save 
vague impressions as to the general disposition of 
candidates, and pretense and blandishment were 
more serviceable than integrity and ability. Such 
conditions gave the utmost possible scope to the arts 
of cajolery that are the traditi nal bane of popular 
government, and in those arts Hamilton was so un- 
skilful that as &a electioneering tactician he was a 
sorry failure. To this on his own account he was 
indifferent, as he was quite free from envy, but he 
regarded the situation as a defeat of the purpose of 
the movement to form a more perfect union. Still 
he did not despair. In the same letter in which he 
acknowledged to Morris his acute disappointment, 
he added: "The time may ere long arrive when the 
minds of men will be prepared to recover the Consti- 
tution, but the many cannot now be brought to 
make a stand for its preservation. We must wait 
a while." 

It is a satisfaction to note that when facing 
death his old chivalric spirit was in full possession of 
his soul. Among his papers was found a statement, 
undated, but manifestly of recent composition, in 
which he computed that he was actually worth 



about £10,000, and yet he feared that if anjrthing 
should happen to force the sale of his property 
it might not even be sufficient to pay his debts. He 
gave particulars to show that the obligations he had 
contracted had been warranted by his circumstances, 
but to protect friends who had from mere kindness 
indorsed his paper discounted at the banks, he had 
thought it justifiable to secure them in preference 
to other creditors. While this might save them from 
eventual loss it would not exempt them from present 
inconvenience. "As to this," he said, "I can only 
throw myself upon their kindness and entreat the 
indulgence of the banks for them. Perhaps the 
request may be supposed entitled to some regard." 

In conclusion the statement makes this noble 
declaration: "In the event which would bring this 
paper to the public eye, one thing at least would be 
put beyond doubt. This is that my pubhc labors 
have amounted to an absolute sacrifice of the inter- 
ests of my family, and that in all pecuniary concerns 
the delicacy no less than the probity of conduct in 
pubhc stations has been such as to defy the shadow 
of a question." He went on to show that he had 
not enjoyed the ordinary advantages incident to 
mihtaiy services. Inasmuch as he was a member 
of Congress when the matter of the claims of army 
officers was up, he formally relinquished all his own 
claim in order that he might occupy a disinterested 
position in effecting a settlement. Nor did he ob- 


tain from the State of New York the usual allowance 
of lands, although he had "better pretensions to the 
allowance than others to whom it was actually 

The shock of Hamilton's death to his family waa 
enhanced by the fact that it was added to other deep 
afflictions. Less than three years before, his oldest 
eon, Philip, who more than any of the other children 
is said to have resembled Hamilton in mental en- 
dowment, was mortally wounded in a duel at the 
same place where Hamilton himself fell later; 
The oldest daughter, Angelica, a beautiful and ac- 
complished girl, suffered so great a shock from her 
brother's death that her mind was impaired, and she 
was under her mother's assiduous care when the 
family was again stricken by the loss of its head, to- 
gether with impending poverty. There were ax 
other children, ranging from eighteen years of age 
to five. Friends raised a fimd to protect the estate, 
and General Schuyler gave his daughter such help 
as his heavily burdened family situation permitted, 
but he too died a few months later. The widow had 
to dispose of the country home she and her husband 
had planned together, and she went to live in the 
city, where she had a hard struggle to keep the family 
together and provide for the education of its younger 
members. Congress, acting with characteristic tar- 
diness, passed a law in 1816 to give her the same 
commutation for back pay as had been allowed to 


other officers of Hamilton's rank, and with accrued 
interest from 1783 the sum amounted to $10,609.64, 
affording great relief to Mrs. Hamilton in her 
necessities. For Hamilton's expenses in equipping 
his company of artillery in the Revolutionary War, 
no reimbursement was ever made. 

An object on which Mrs. Hamilton's heart was 
set and which she never ceased to pursue during 
the rest of her long life waa the vindication of her 
husband's reputation as a statesman; but in this 
matter also she had to endure singular affliction, 
for whenever she made arrangements for a biogra- 
phy something would happen to frustrate the plan. 
Her first choice was the Reverend John M. Mason, 
who had delivered an impressive funeral oration be- 
fore the Society of the Cincinnati. He collected 
some materials for a biography and kept that pur- 
pose in view for some years, but eventually aban- 
doned it. In 1819 Mrs. Hamilton made some 
arrangements with a Mr. Hopkinson, — probably 
Joseph Hopkinson, of Philadelphia, author of "Hail, 
Columbia," — but in some way the negotiation mis- 
carried. In 1827 Timothy Pickering took the mat- 
ter m hand, but had not gone fmther with it than 
to collect some material when he died. In 1832 
Mrs. Hamilton wrote to a daughter: "I have my 
fears I shall not obtain my object. Most of the 
contemporaries of your father have also passed 
away." Nevertheless she did not relax her efforts, 


but kept writing to leading Federalists all over the 
country to collect all the facta she could about her 
husband's public services. Accounts of her old age 
describe her as a little, bright-eyed woman, of erect 
figure and brisk ways, retaining in her conversation 
much of the ease and brilliancy of her youth. Fi- 
nally, at her pressing request, her fourth son, John 
Church Hamilton, accepted the task of preparing a 
biography. The two volumes of his lAJe of Alex- 
ander Hamilton appeared from 1834 to 1840. He 
also arranged his father's papers, and in 1849 
his collection was purchased by Congress and was 
published under his editorial supervision. Thus 
Mrs. Hamilton had the satisfaction of seeing an 
object of such dear interest accomplished at last. 
She died in 1854, aged ninety-seven, her mind re- 
maining perfectly clear until a few days before her 

John Church Hamilton began his pious task with 
reluctance, due, as he said in the preface to his first 
volume, to "a deep conviction of my incapacity, 
the want of the necessary preparatory studies, and 
a distrust of the natural bias of my feelings." The 
two volumes he produced during his mother's life- 
time brought the story of his father's life down to the 
period of the constitutional convention. By that 
time his studies had so enlarged his knowledge of 
American history that he decided to shift from 
biogi'aphy to history in carrying on his work. The 


result was hia History oj the Republic of the Vn^ 
States of America, as Traced in the Writings of Alet- 
ander Hamilton and His Contemporaries, in seven 
massive volumes, published from 1857 to 1861. 
The work is written with dignity and ability, but 
its plan, taken in connection with the natural bias 
of feelings which, as he had anticipated, he was 
unable to escape, revived aU the old controversies 
and detracted from the true greatness of Hamilton's 
statesmanship by exhibiting it merely in its provin- 
cial setting. It naturally engendered reply in the I 
same spirit. The motive of Randall's voluminous 
Life of Thomas Jefferson is pointedly indicated by 
the author's remark that Jefferson left no son to be 
80 "deeply interested in his mere personal defense" 
as to be willing "to swell pamphlets to books to roll 
back the tide of personal vituperation on his assail- 
ants." An abiding fashion was set for treating the 
early history of the repubhe as a drama of creation 
in which Hamilton and Jefferson figured as Ormuzd 
and Ahriman, but along with common agreement 
in this view went violent difference of opinion as to 
which was which. 

Among the unfortunate consequences of this 
standing controversy was that it diverted atten- 
tion from the need of further research into the par- 
ticulars of Hamilton's hfe. The family collection 
of matter with which John Church Hamilton began 
his labors was large but not exhaustive, and he 



does not appear to have added to it materially, 
editorship and interpretation of the great mass al- 
ready in hand fiilly occupying his time. His publi- 
cations supplied the material used by various bi- 
ographers until Professor William Graham Sumner's 
Alexander Hamilton appeared in 1890. In this he 
did not furnish any new data, but he gave a masterly 
portrayal of the features of American public life 
in Hamilton's time, thus supplying for the first time 
the proper background for a correct view of Hamil- 
ton's career. The obscurity which surrounded Ham- 
ilton's birth and childhood was not cleared away 
until Mrs. Atherton made a minute investigation of 
the West Indian scene in collecting material for her 
vivid and interesting historical novel The Conqueror, 
1902. Nothing but a meagre and scrappy account of 
Hamilton's home life had appeared up to 1910, 
when a grandson, Allan McLane Hamilton, published 
The Intimate. Life of Alexander Hamilton, a work 
whose completeness, sincerity, fairness, and grace 
make it an entirely worthy treatment of its theme. 
This work wisely avoided consideration of Hamil- 
ton's public career, and it was not until Frederick 
Scott Ohver's Alexander Hamilton appeared in 1916 
that his achievements were disengaged from their 
provincial setting sufficiently to be estimated on a 
scale of world values. This splendid work marks 
the beginning of a new era in Hamilton biography, 
in which the old controversies fall into the back- 


ground as among the local incidents of a career whose 
importance lies in the universal value of the con- 
structive principles he discerned, developed, and 
applied. The old view, which insists on r^arding 
Hamilton simply as a protagonist in a struggle be- 
tween broad and strict principles of constitutional 
construction, between national and State authority, 
is really a piece of narrow, obtuse provincialism; 
and so too is the latest antithesis, produced by the 
revolutionary spirit of the present time, whidi re- 
gards the struggle as essentially one between capi- 
talism and agrarianism. It is impossible to fit 
Hamilton's career into such a framework, as will 
plainly appear when mythology is discarded and 
actual facts are considered. 



It is important to remember that Hamilton was 
never in full accord with the party with which he 
acted, and throughout his career he experienced 
detraction from party associates, including somej 
who were among his intimates. The matter does' 
not become fully comprehensible until the elements 
of the constitutional movement are considered. The 
starting-point of all fair judgment upon the situation 
after the Revolution is that attachment to English 
constitutional principles still continued to be the 
master influence over political thought. When at 
the beginning of the struggle with Great Britain 
Jefferson wrote, " It is neither our wish nor our in- 
terest to separate from her," he expressed a senti- 
ment held by all the leaders. Although the events 
of the war, and particularly the necessity of accept- 
ing the condition on which alone the alliance of 
France could be obtained, forced the American 
leaders to abandon the distinction they had origi- 
nally drawn between loyalty to the Crown and sub- 
mission to taxes laid by the British Parhament, and 
induced them to issue the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, they still continued to beheve that the English 



constitutional system was the best practical solu- 
tion of the problem of combining liberty with oru. 
that had been reached in all the long history of mab- 
kind. This belief presided over the constitutional 
movement. Jefferson held it as strongly as Hamilton 
and avowed it just as distinctly. The admiration 
for the English constitution expressed by Hamilton 
does not account for the charge of monarchical sym- 
pathies brought against him, for that was the com- 
mon state of feeling. His fear lest the republican 
experiment should fail was too generally held to 
supply matter for particular indictment. None 
such was ever filed against Benjamin Franklin, al- 
though he repeatedly declared in the constitutional 
convention that "the government of these States 
may in future times end in monarchy." The truth 
of the matter is that the Hamilton myth originated 
in divisions and cross-purposes among men who had 
a commoi. regard for English constitutional prin- 
ciples, but who differed somewhat as to the nature 
of those principles and also differed widely as to 
their application under American conditions. 

The deepest cleavage was with respect to the posi- 
tion of the States. Hamilton was in favor of giving 
the national Executive power to appoint the State 
Governors; Madison was in favor of giving the 
federal administration "a negative in all cases what- 
ever, on the legislative acts of the States, as the King 
of Great Britain heretofore had." Hamilton's plan 


^Bould have put the States in about the same posi- 
ti-a as the royal colonies had been; Madison's, 
iji about the same position as the charter colonies. 
In both cases the subordination was to be complete, 
and in any event it was inevitable if federal authority 
was to be securely established. Madison's plan has 
virtually prevailed, through extension of the au- 
thority of the federal courts on lines laid down by 
Madison himself in the l^slation of the Fust Con- 
gress, in opposition to Hamilton's views. Hamilton 
held that the federal judiciary might be established 
by embracing the State courts in the system, under 
the supervision of the Supreme Court of the United 
States. That this plan was feasible is shown by 
the faet that it has been successfxilly introduced 
in some countries — ^notably in Switzerland. Madi- 
son, however. Insisted on a distinct system through- 
out, his main argument being that in some of the 
States the courts "are so dependent on_.the State 
legislatures, that to make the federal laws depen- 
dent on them would throw us back into all the em- 
barrassments which chai-acterized our former situa- 
tion." Had Hamilton's plan been adopted the sub- 
ordination of the States to federal authority could 
scarcely be greater than it is now, and means would 
have existed for a more harmonious, economical, 
prompt, and efficient system of administering justice 
than is possible with two separate ^stems. 
It seems to be now the general opinion that 



Hamilton's plan of federal appointment of State | 
Governors would have been fatal to State authority. 
An elaborate note in Senator Lodge's edition of Ham- 
ilton's Writings says that "this arrangement would 
have ciaished the States." It is impossible to arrive 
at any fixed conclusion in discussing what might have 
been, but it may at least be observed that the plan 
has had no such result in the constitutional system 
from which Hamilton took the idea. The Knglisli 
plan of executive appointment of all governors is 
still in operation, and English commonwealths in all 
parts of the world do not appear to be inconve- 
nienced thereby in their possession of self-govern- 
ment. Much light will be cast upon this subject if 
one shall seriously consider which in reality pos- 
sesses greater power of action — a Canadian prov- 
ince or an American State? 

Another deep cleavage was over the extent to 
which the Government should be subjected to the 
control of public opinion. What in general the upper 
classes in society were most intent upon was protec- 
tion for their own interests, and they were bent 
upon securing this through assertion of constitu- 
tional privilege and by limitation in grants of power. 
They wanted an executive strong enough to keep 
order, but not strong enough to interfere with their 
privileges. In Hamilton's opinion they were in- 
clined to go to lengths that were neither wise nor 
just. So early as 1777, when the first constitution 



of the State of New York was framed, he had dif- 
ferences with Gouvemeur Morris on such matters, 
and when the Constitution of the United States 
was in the making such differences were renewed. 
Moms favored the accumulation of power in the 
custody of the Senate, which is a marked feature 
of the Constitution of the United States, and he ex- 
pressed the hope that the Senate "will show us the 
might of aristocracy." Madison had viitually the 
same thought, when he said that the Senate "will 
guard the minority who are placed above indigence 
against the agrarian attempts of the ever-increasing 
class who labor under the hardsliips of life, and se- 
cretly strive for a more equal distribution of its 
blessings." Hamilton did not dispute that there 
were advantages to be gained through the poUtical 
influence of wealth and social position, but he was 
not willing to give it supremacy. Madison's Journal 
notes that he expressed himself "with great earnest- 
ness and anxiety" to the effect that "the House of 
Representatives was on so narrow a scale, as to be 
really dangerous, and to warrant a jealousy in the 
people, for their hberties." Hence he favored an 
executive strong enough to keep every class, high or 
low, rich or poor, subdued to justice, and a repre- 
sentative assembly that would give the entire mass 
of the people an effective control over the Govern- 
ment. In the constitutional scheme he drafted in 
1787 members of the Senate and also Presidential 


electors were to be chosen by districts, apportioned 
in a ratio to the basis of representation in Congress^ 
upon a suffrage limited by property qualifications 
such as were then general. But the number of 
senators should never be in larger ratio to the num- 
ber of representatives than forty is to one hundred, 
and the representatives were to be elected "by the 
free male citizens and inhabitants of the several 
States comprehended in the Union; all of whom, of 
the age of tweilty-one and upwards, shall be entitled 
to an equal vote.'' Perhaps none of Hamilton's 
recommendations were so shocking to his associates 
as this one of manhood suffrage. Agreement was 
then almost universal that suffrage ought to be con- 
fined to freeholders. James Madison's last political 
battle was fought over this issue, when in 1830, with 
the aid of James Monroe and others of the elder 
statesmen, he succeeded in retaining the freehold 
qualification in the Virginia constitution, thus ex- 
cluding from the franchise about 80,000 white male 
citizens of his State. 

Hamilton's proposal to give the President a ten- 
ure of office during good behavior, with power to 
appoint State Governors, and with an imqualified 
negative upon legislation, should be viewed in con- 
jimction with the democratic control over the au- 
thority of both President and Senate which he sought 
to provide in the House of Representatives. His 
scheme was really nothing more than a democratized 


version of the English (ionstitution. If the provision 
of an unqualified negative over legislation looks 
autocratic, it should be considered that it cannot be 
80 in reality, in view of the presence and activity 
of a genuinely representative assembly. Actual ex- 
perience with this veiy provision, which is still a 
traditional feature of the English constitution, al- 
though now quite dormant, shows that it has no 
tendency toward absolutism in practice. 

Hamilton's advocacy of broad authority was 
based upon democratic principles. He told the 
New York Convention, in the course of his fight 
for the adoption of the Constitution: "JThere^are 
two objects in forming systems of government- 
safety for the people, and energy in the administra- 
tion. When these objects are imited, the certaili 
tendency of the system will be to the pubhc welfare. 
If the latter object be neglected, the people's secmity 
will be as certainly sacrificed as by disregarding the 
former." Hence he opposed Bills of Rights, on the 
ground that a good constitution is itself "in every 
rational sense and to every useful purpose a Bill of 
Rights"; and, moreover, that "they would even be 
dangerous," through the handle they wotild give for 
arrogant interpretations. "After all," he told the 
New York Convention, "we must submit to this 
idea, that the true principle of a republic is that the 

sople should choose whom they please to govern 
Representation is imperfect in proportion as 


the current of popular favor is checked." In fine, 
Hamilton held that since in every form of govern- 
ment power must exist and be trusted somewhere, 
able to cope with every emergency of war or peace, 
and since the extent of emergency is incalculable, 
therefore, public authority is not really susceptible 
of limitation. If limitation be imposed, the effect 
is not to stay the exertion of power under stress of 
public necessity, but is rather to cause it to become 
capricious, violent, and irregular. The true con- 
cern of a constitution is therefore not limitation of 
power, but is provision of means for defining respon- 

The constitutional ideal aimed at by Hamilton 
may be fairly described as plenary power in the 
administration, subject to direct and continuous ac- 
countabihty to the people, maintained by a repre- 
sentative assembly, broadly democratic in its char- 
acter.' This ideal, although it anticipates a sdtuar 
tion which since his time has been apparently the 
goal of democratic progress, was intensely obnoxious 
to conservative sentiment when Hamilton presented 
it. In that day a respectable republic was conceived 
of as being necessarily antidemocratic in its struc- 
ture. According to Madison the essential distinc- 
tion between a democracy and a republic "lies in the 

' Elxpreeeiona of opinion to this purport aro found in many places 
in H&milton'a writinga. They appear with particular diatinctiiefia 
in Nob. 23, 31, aad S4 of The FederaUat, and in & brief but compre- 
henaire fonn in a letter to Timothy Pickling, September 18, 1803. 




^^tal exclusion of the people in their collective ca- 
pacity from any share in the latter." Hamilton's 
dissent from the ideas and principles of the con- 
servative reaction which produced the Constitution, 
not only explains how it was that his associates re- 
garded him as monarchical and antirepublican at 
heart, but also how it was that he played so unim- 
portant a part in the convention itself. The stream 
ran so strongly in favor of security to right and privi- 
lege by partition of authority that it was impossible 
for him to stem it effectively. The Constitution 
was not what he desired, but he at once accepted 
it as "the best that the present views and circum- 
stances of the coimtry will permit," and he apphed 
all his powers to the task of putting it in motion. 
These facts amply explain the misunderstandings 
which harassed Hamilton in his own day and have 
been perpetuated even to our own times. If one's 
opinion be no longer taken from tradition but shall 
be formed upon the evidence, much material will be 
found in support of the belief that Hamilton was 
in advance of his times in comprehension of demo- 
cratic principles of government and in knowledge of 
the proper application of them. So much depends 
upon the point of view that estimates of the value of 
Hamilton's ideas will probably keep changing with 
the times. It is noticeable that in England, where 
democratic progress has taken place on the lines 
which Hamilton anticipated, his statesmanship is 


rated higher than in the United States, in which 
there is still great reliance upon the partition of 
power, and upon impediments to action which Ham- 
ilton condemned as constitutional frailties apt to 
have fatal consequences. As to these matters his- 
tory has yet to give complete instructions. 

A habit of thought which obscures the truth about 
them both is that which views Hamilton and Jeflfer- 
son as the champions of opposing theories of gov«n- 
ment. The only element of truth in this is that 
Hamilton took the realistic view of humannature, 
which holds that it cannot possess freedom save 
through moral discipline, while Jeff erson_ inclined 
to the romantic view that humanity is naturaBy 
inclined to be good and kmd if well treated, and that 
the country is best governed that is governed the 
least. One of the few strokes of satire to be found 
in Hamilton's writings is an aUxision to the "en- 
thusiasts who expect to see the halcyon scenes of 
the poetic or fabulous age realized in America." 
Jefferson did not think a modest realization of hopes 
of this order impracticable if the country should 
keep to plain, simple ways of living. In his Notes 
on Virginia, he said: "While we have land to labor, 
let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a 
workshop or twirling a distaff. . . . Let our work- 
is remain in Europe. It is better to cariy pro- 
visions and material to workmen there than to bring 
them to the provisions and materials, and with them 


their manneis and principles. • . . The mobs of 
great cities add just so much to the support of pure 
govermnent as sores do to the strength of the himian 
body." He brought up this point again when writ- 
ing to Madison about the new Constitution. He 
said: "I think our governments will remain virtu- 
ous for many centodes, as long as they aie chiefly 
agricultural; and this they will be as long as there 
shaU be vacant lands in any part of America. When 
they get piled up upon one another in large cities, 
as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe." 
It was certainly natural for one holding such 
ideas to view with alarm Hamilton's measures for 
developing banking, commercial, and manufacturing 
interests, but it is a mistake to regard Jefferson as 
either democratic in his principles or as antagonistic 
to authority in his practice. His notion of a proper 
Constitution was one " in which the powers of govern- 
ment should be so divided and balanced among 
several bodies of magistracy as that no one could 
transcend their l^al limits without being effectu- 
ally checked and restrained by the others." While 
the constitutional convention was at work he wrote 
to Madison suggesting that, to give stability to 
juriq)rudence, "it would be well to provide in om* 
constitution that there shall always be a twelve- 
month between the engrossing of a bill and the 
passing of it." His views as to the relations of 
federal and State authority seem to have varied in 


correspondence with his party interrat. Strict con- 
sistency is rare among politicians the world over. 
But Hamilton was undoubtedly right when he wrote 
that Jefferson "was generally for a large construc- 
tion of executive authority and not backward to 
act upon it in cases which coincided with his views."' 
Under the Virginia dynasty, which Jefferson founded, 
the Government was weakened through attempts 
to reduce it to rustic dimensions, but its federalist 
character was perpetuated. This was so notorious 
that Madison felt impelled to excuse it on the ground 
that with Republicans in charge of affairs things 
might be allowed that were justly regarded as danger- 
ous while the Federalists were in power.* On the 
whole, Jefferson's career was more a help than an 
obstruction to the success of Hamilton's measures. 
It was Jefferson's timely aid that passed the Fund- 
ing and Assumption Bill, and his success as a party 
leader was of immense value in reconciling popular 
sentiment to a constitutional system which the high- 
flying Federalists had been making odious, in spite 
of Hamilton's warnings. 

It has often been remarked that Hamilton's writ- 
ings afford little evidence of esteem for Washington, 
and it must be allowed that on Hamilton's side the 
usual relation was one of formal respect rather than 

> Hamilton to Jaioee A. Bayard, Januaiy 16, 1801. 
' MadiflOQ to William EubUs, May 22, 1823. 




: affection. Something of this is accounted 
the fact that Washington was a much older 
man, and that his manners never encouraged famili- 

»arity in any one, but in addition there is evidence 
irf imperfect sympathies which long stood in the 
way of full understanding. There is much to sup- 
port Jefferson's claim that originally Washington 
was more disposed to confide in him and in Madison 
than in Hamilton, The attitude of neutrality which 
Washington thought prudent for him to maintain 
during the struggle over Hamilton's financial mea- 
sures would naturally strike Hamilton as cold indif- 
ference, and the frequency with which Hamilton 
had to repel attacks upon him made privately to 
Washington must also have wounded him.' In the 
course of the Treasury investigation it became a 
question whether certain arrangements made by 
Hamilton had been actually authorized by Wash- 
ington as Hamilton had claimed. As to this Wash- 
ington wrote such a non-conunittal letter that 
Hamilton sent a reply protesting with considerable 
warmth at the way he was being treated.' But 
Washington was more and more drawn to Hamilton 
through experience of his powers and their relations 
eventually became those of the most cordial and 

' See hia letter to John Jay, December 18, 1792. 
* Hamilton to Waahington, April 9, 1794, vol. Ill, p. 190, Lodge's 
j&ition of Hamiiion's Writings. 


trustful intimacy. When Hamilton resigned his 
office Washington's feelings broke through his ha- 
bitual formality of phrase. He wrote to Hamil- 
ton in terms of fervent affection and esteem^ and 
Hamilton's reply was equally cordial. Washington's 
regard for Hamilton remamed warm and active for 
the rest of his lif e^ and Hamilton made proper re- 
sponsC; but one gets the notion that Washington 
was fonder of Hamilton than Hamilton was of him^ 
which in view of all that had happened is not sur- 

If one can escape the glamour that Hamilton's 
brilliancy is apt to produce and be able to view him 
simply as a brother man, it is not hard to see that 
his character was distinctly of what was once a well- 
marked Scottish type. It was a type which, in its 
idealism, in ite gallLtiy, and in irself-suffi iency, 
has been depict^ by a great artist whose nativity 
gave him sp^ial insight of Scottish character. Ham- 
ilton is an Alan Breck with a genius for statesman- 
ship. Stevenson's hero in Kidnapped did not face 
tremendous odds with greater courage or in higher 
spirits than did Alexander HamUton in accomplish- 
ing his mission. And in both one notes the same 
traits: generosity, devotion, promptness, daring, 
pride, conceit, touchiness, pugnacity, shrewdness, 
acumen, and inexhaustibi energy-4 mingling oJ 
high and low such as may be found only in characters 


built on a grand scale^ with the bold irregularity of a 
mountain range. 

His talents were great but not unequalled. In 
philosophy and eloquence he is so inferior to Burke 
that there is no basis for comparison; but in Burke's 
writings we have the polished result of skilful art- 
istry, while Hamilton's writings were hastily pro- 
duced as mere incidents of his political activity. 
In an age when heavily structured style was in 
tMon^L pen w« ea^, rapid, and fluit, dippmg 
at times into some negligence of diction but always 
vivid and impressive. As he wrote only as current 
events prompted, it never occurred to him to put 
his ideas into systematic fonn, and his political 
philosophy comes out only in the way of side-lights 
upon concrete particulars. It is precisely this that 
gives The Federalist such permanent value as a 
poKtical treatise. The matters with which it deals 
are just such as always crop out in forming a system 
of government, and it abounds with maxims for 
practical guidance. 

Hamilton's inferiority as an electioneering tac- 
tician is easily accounted for. The case exemplifies 
the Italian proverb that the eagle is not good at 
catching flies. But nothing accoimts for his genius 
for statesmanship. Its power is manifest; but its 
nature is inscrutable. There was nothing in his ante- 
cedents, in his education, or in his experience to ex- 



plain the piercing vision into the springs of politica] 
action, the clear discernment of means for practice 
attainment of purpose, which he displayed from the 
first. Of political ambition in a personal way he 
was singularly devoid, except in the militaiy line, 
his rank in which was matter for concern such as he 
never seems to have felt about purely civic honors. 
There is a singular concentration of piupose in his 
pubUc career, which is the secret of its vigor and con- 
aistency. All his thought and effort were addressed 
to the great question which he propounded in the 
first number of The Federalist: "Whether societies 
of men are really capable or not of establishing good 
government from reflection and choicCj or whether 
they are forever destined to depend for their political 
constitutions on accident and force." The answer 
is not yet quite clear, but it is quite clear that the 
greatest contribution to political method on the 
side of free agency is that which was made by Alex- 
ander Hamilton. Anticipating biological principles 
unknown to the age in which he hved, he stated 
the law of poUtical development to be that "Every 
institution will grow and flourish in proportion 'to 
the quantity and extent of the means concentred 
towards its formation and support." ' That prin- 
ciple guided his statesmanship and the result has 
demonstrated its efficacy beyond even his own lai^ 

' Tke FedertUut, No. XI. 


calculations. It still remains the only safe principle 
that political theory has supplied to political prac- 
tice^ and his success in discovering and applying it 
puts Alexander Hamilton among the greatest states- 
men the world has produced. 



Adams, John, his slur on Hamilton's 
birth, 4; his panic, 70; antagonism 
to democracy, 84; charged with 
unrepublican principles, 262; suc- 
ceeds to the Presidency, 314 et 
seq.; his character, 315; makes 
overtures to Jefferson, 316 et seq. ; 
appoints Washington to command 
of army, 320; antagonizes Wash- 
ington's selection of officers, 321 ; 
Is overruled by his Cabinet, 323; 
sends anothw mission to France, 
324 et seq. ; dismisses cabinet {offi- 
cers, 324 et seq. ; his rage against 
Hamilton, 326; is denounced by 
Hamilton, 327; loses the Presi- 
dency, 328; his regard for Burr, 
332. 335 

Adams, Samuel, 145, 166, 191 

Algerine corsairs, 179 

Alien and Sedition Laws, 323 et seq. 

AlUson, William, 80 

Ames, Fisher, 215, 219, 227, 348 

Andr6, Major, 108 

AntifederaUsts, plans of, 206; efforts 
to defeat the Constitution, 207; 
attitude of. in Congress, 212 

Army, Continental, pay of, 147; 
grievances of, 154; disbandment 
of, 155 

Arnold, Benedict, 70, 107 

Asgill, Captain, 134 et seq. 

Asia, British man-of-war, 40 et seq. 

Assumption Bill, 233 et seq., 239, 

Atherton, Mrs. Gtertrude, 78, 355 

Barbados, 18 

Barlow, Joel, American poet, 177 

Bayard, James A., of Delaware, 339, 

Benson, Egbert, of New York, 178, 

Bible Society, American, 188 
Bm of Rights. Hamilton's objection 

to, 363 
Blackstone's Commentaries, 217 
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 325 

Boudinot. Ellas, 20. 43. 227, 238 

Brandywine, battle of, 58 

Brown University. 151 

Burgoyne, General, 61 

Burke, Edmimd, 96, 225 

Burr, Aaron, Rev., 2 

Burr, Aaron, guides Putnam's divi- 
sion, 47; defeated in Section of 
1785, 178; outgenerals Hamilton 
m election of 1800, 328; his char- 
acter, 329; his military career, 329 
et seq. ; activity in New York poli- 
tics, 331; elected to U. S. Senate, 
332; antagonized by Hamilton, 
334; his ability as a political tac- 
tician. 335; preferred to Jefferson 
by Federalists, 338 et seq. ; refuses 
to negotiate for Presidency, 338 
et seq. ; assailed by Hamilton, 338; 
kills Hamilton in duel. 342 et seq. 

Carrington. Edward, Col., 267, 269, 

Chase, Samuel, of Maryland, de- 
nounced by Hamilton, 75 

Chastelluz, Marquis de, 106 

Christian Constitutional Society, 

Church, Mrs. Angelica, 104 

Church, John B., 170, 313 

Clinton, George, 74, 138, 159, 181, 
182. 183, 185, 190, 199, 203. 204, 
207, 218 

Cobbett, William, 309 

Coleman, William. 309 

Commercial regulations, State diffi- 
culties over, 176; interstate nego- 
tiations on, 178; basLs of call for 
constitutional convention, 180 

Congress, Continental, its incapac- 
ity, 70 et seq. ; Duch6's opinion of, 
72; Henry lAurens's account of, 
72; its fondness for display, 73; 
Washington's opinion of, 73; its 
mUitary policy, 76 et seq.; antag- 
onizes Washingtcm, 98; its finan- 
ciering, 143 et seq.; proposes flve- 
per-oent impost, 145; pay of its 




members, 172; Its scale of expen- 
diture, 173; appoints Treasury 
commissioners, 174; becomes a 
migratory body, 175; meets in 
New York City, 184; opposes tlie 
convention movement, 185; its 
change of attitude. 103; recom- 
mends the States to send delo- 
gates, 194; dies of inanition. 206; 
its creation of executive depart- 
ments, 210; its Treasury manage- 
ment, 214; adopts decimal sys- 
tem, 251 

Congress, U. S., debate <m Hamil- 
ton's proposals, 236 et seq. ; repu- 
diation proposed but defeated, 237 
el 8eq.\ discrimination defeated, 
230; Assumption Bill defeated, 
241; interest of members in na- 
tional-capital site. 242; threats of 
secessicm, 244; Funding and As- 
sumption Bill enacted through 
bargains, 245; incorporates the 
Bank of the U. S., 247; establishes 
the mint, 251 et seq. ; enacts Tariff 
Bill with protectionist clauses, 
258; committee methods of, 273; 
adopts resolutions of inquiry into 
Treasury management, 274; votes 
down attempted censure of Ham- 
ilton, 277; resumes Treasury in- 
vestigation, 294; drops the mat- 
ter, 296 et seq. ; makes compensa- 
tion for back pay due Hamilton, 

Continental money, depreciation of, 

Conway. General, his sarcastic 
query, 98 

Cooper, Charles D., Dr., 341 

Cooper, Myles, Dr., president of 
King's College. 21. 30, 34, 35 

Cooper. William, 340 

ComwalUs. Lord, 122. 125. 128 

Cruger, Nicholas, employs Hamil- 
ton as (derk, 14 

Custis, reminiscences of Hamilton, 
42, 43, 61 

De Grasse, Count, 122 

De Heart. Balthazar, Hamilton's 

law partner, 160 
De Kalb, Baron, 68 
Dickinson, John, 29 
Drum, The. Hamilton's song, 343 
Duane, James. 89, 135, 138, 164, 
' 188 

DuchS, Jacob, Rev., 68 
Duer, William, 178 

Electoral college, split votes in. 316; 

tie between Jefferson and Burr. 

Empress, the, first American ship 

to visit China, 179 

Fauchet, Joseph, 299 

Fawcett, Bachel, maiden name of 
Hamiltcm's mother, 5; married to 
J. M. Levine, 5; leaves her hus- 
band, 6; united to James Hamil- 
ton, 7; death of, 9 

Federalist, The, 201, 210, 218. 364, 
371, 372 

Federalist party, carries New York 
City, 203; its grand pageant. 204 
et seq.', wrecked by dissensioos, 
314; arrogant policy in Congress, 
323; defeated in election of 1800. 

France, naval war with, 318 

Franklin, Benjamin, 358 

Fraunces, Andrew G., calimmiates 
Hamilton, 294 

French Revolution, effects oi, 278 e( 
seq. ; popular sympathy with, 284 

Freneau, Philip, 260, 290 

Funding Bill. See Assumption Bill 

Gates. Horatio, General, 101, 106 

Gendt. Edmond, arrives in U. S., 
279; his objects, 282; antago- 
nizes the administration. 284; 
his popularity. 285; energetic 
measures of. 287; his intimacy 
with Jefferson, 288; is opposed by 
Hamilton. 288; ignores Jefferson's 
wishes, 289; is abandoned by Jef- 
ferson, 290; defended by Freneau, 
290 et seq. ; defies the government 
in the case of Le Petit DSmocrate, 

Gerry. Eibridge, 213. 227 

Giles. W. B., of Virginia, elected to 
Congress, 165; his character, 273; 
incites Congressional investiga- 
tion of Hamilton. 274 ; resolutions 
of censure moved by. 276; his 
resolutions defeated. 277; renews 
the attack, 293 et seq.; again de- 
feated. 296; argues against Jay 
treaty. 307 

Gilleland, Captain. 127 

Gimat. Lieut.-Col.. 125 et seq. 

Goldsmith, Oliver, on republics, 83 



Grainger. James, Dr., 3 
Graydon, his Memoirs, 66, 97 
Greene, General, 43, 141, 174 

Hamilton, Alexander, birth of, 2; 
technical illegitimacy of. 4--8; his 
correspondence with his father. 
10; his education, 13: assisted by 
the Rev. Hugh Knox, 13; cdeik in 
a general store, 14; his ambition. 
14; his description of a hurricane. 
16; sent to America, 16; attends 
Francis Barber's grammar school, 
19; enters King's College, 21; his 
studies, 22; supports the Ameri- 
can cause by speech and pen, 24; 
his original principles, 26-28; 
pamphlets by, 29-32, 39; appeals 
to Jay to suppress rowdyism, 37; 
joins State militia, 40; organizes 
an artillery company, 42; takes 
part in battle of Long Island, 44; 
first meeting with Washington, 
47; takes part in battle of White 
Plains, 49; his rear-guard action 
near New Brunswick, 50; takes 
part in engagements at Trenton 
and Princeton, 51; becomes secre- 
tary to Washington, 52 ; his letters 
to Rev. Hugh Knox, 52; personal 
appearance of, 56; leads scouting 
expedition, 58; warns Congress of 
approach of British, 59; his work 
as military secretary, 60; his mis- 
sion to Gen. Gates, 61; acts as 
second to Laurens in duel with 
Lee, 62; assailed by Tory press, 
63; his account of army condi- 
tions, 69; denounces a member of 
Congress, 74; drafts plans for 
army reorganization, 76; sends 
reports to New York Convention, 
81; financial suggestions by, 84 
et seq.; recommemis election of 
Robert Morris, 86; drafts plan for 
national bank, 87; urges creation 
of executive departments, 89-92; 
proposes constitutional conven- 
tion, 93-95; his table manners, 
97; his idea of a wife, 99; meets 
Elizabeth Schuyler, 100; his 
courtship, 103-111 ; ills accoimt of 
Arnold's treason, 108; his chival- 
rous treatment of Major AndrS, 
108; his marriage. 111; memo- 
randimi to Robert Morris on 
national bank, 112; resigns from 
Washington's staff. 114-117; 

seeks a regimental appoint- 
ment, 121-123; his letters to 
his wife during Yorktown cam- 
paign, 123-124; leads assault 
on British lines, 124-128; ad- 
mitted to bar, 130; composes a 
manual on law practloei 131; his 
letters to Lafayette, 132, 141, 148; 
protests against condemnation of 
Capt. Asgill, 133; appointed Con- 
tinental Superintendent for New 
York, 135; his account of politi- 
cal conditions there, 137; drafts 
national resolutions adopted by 
legidature. 139; his letters to 
John Laurens, 140; his activity in 
Continental Congress, 147-156; 
his letter to Vicomte de Noailles, 
147; his letters to Washington on 
army grievances, 153; writes 
"Vindication of Congress," 155; 
advises Washington on national 
policy, 157; be^ns law practice, 
159; his fees, 160; tries suit in- 
volving treaty \ obligations, 161- 
165; his "Phocian" letters, 167 
et seq., 167; is challenged by Col. 
Oswald, 170; organizes Book, of 
New York, 170; attends Annap- 
olis Convention, 179; drafts call 
for constitutional convention, 180; 
elected to New York Assembly, 
182 ; secures State participation in 
constitutional convention, 181- 
195; elected a delegate to the con- 
vention, 194; obtains repeal of 
prescriptive legislation, 195; ad- 
vocates recognition of Vermont, 
196; his record in the constltu- 
tionsd convention, 197 et seq.; 
his pamphlet war with Clinton, 
200; appeals to Washington for 
aid, 201; begins The Federalist, 
201 et seq. ; carries New York for 
the new Constitution, 204; urges 
Washington to accept the Presi- 
dency, 207; accepts Treasury 
portfolio, 209; excluded from 
floor of Congress, 210; his expec- 
tation of aid from Madison dis- 
appointed, 211-222; his report 
on public credit, 224 et seq.; his 
relations with Washington, 226, 
368-370; his habits of woric, 229: 
his plans obstructed by Congres- 
sional opposition, 236 et seq.; his 
bargain with Jefferson, 246; his 
plans for national bank, 246; bis 



CBJbbMBt opinSoo deroloplDg tlie 
doctrfne of fanpikid powen, 248; 
proposes ostabHshmflnt of nodot, 
240; sobmits r^MXt oq manufBO* 
tores. 252: his discnsricii of the 
tasue of protectloo ts. tne trade. 
253 ei jeg.; soooesB of his mtBt^ 
■ores. 258: Mb breach wfth Jef- 
fenon and Madison, 267 ei teq.; 
repUes to cfaafges transmitted by 
Washington, 270; assafled by 
Giles, 274; prompt reqxmse to 
resdntioDS of inquiry. 275; crfti- 
cises Frencrh attarhments of ^f- 
ferson and Biadison, 278; ad- 
vises Washington on foreign 
policy. 280; tals views on treaty 
obligations, 284; indiffoenoe 
to partisan damor. 285; drafts 
notice to Gendt. 286; fH»- 
trates penftt's plans. 288; writes 
the "PadUcns'* series. 288; 
writes "No Jacobin" series. 291; 
is stricken with yellow fever. 291 ; 
notifies Washington of his desire 
to resign. 292; challenges investi- 
gation of his official conduct, 294 
et seq. : suppresses tiie Whiskey In- 
surrection. 298; again challenges 
investigaticm, 299; leaves the 
CaMnet. 300; gives an opinion on 
the Jay treaty. 302; encounters 
mob violence, 303: defends the 
treaty in the "Camillus" articles. 
306; drafts Washingrton's Fare- 
well Address. 308; his journalistic 
activities, 309; his pamphlet on 
the Reynolds scandal. 311 e( seq.i 
refuses seat in U. S. Senate, 313; 
builds "The Grange," 313; be- 
comes private adviser of Adams*s 
Cabinet, 314 et seq.; his support 
of Thomas Pinckney for Presi- 
dent, 316; appointed major-gen- 
eral by Washington, 320; encoun- 
ters opposition of Adams, 321 et 
seq.: distressed by variance with 
Knox, 321; opposes the sedition 
law, 324; denounces Adams's 
conduct. 327; is outgeneralled by 
Burr in New York. 328; his early 
relations with Burr. 332; his ani- 
mosity against Burr, 333; assails 
Burr's character, 338 et seq.; is 
called to account by Burr, 342; 
accepts Burr's challenge, 343; his 
account of his motives, 344; his 
farewell messages to bis wife, 344; 

Is fatally woonded. 345; his letter 
to a Scotch relative. 346; his 
moods of diaooaragement, 347 et 
teq.i ]4>parent Callure of his ca- 
reer. 348: his diivalric qririt. 349; 
his estate impoveririied by bis 
death, 350; aflUctioiis oC his tarn- 
fly, 351; tardy action by CongreBs 
on his dalm for back pay, 351; 
biograi^des of. 352 et seq.: esti- 
mates of his character and achieve- 
mentB, 357-373; his democratic 
ideals. 361-364; his principles 
eontrasted wi^ those of Jefl^- 
son. 366 et seq.: his literary style, 
371 ; his gentos for statesmanship. 
371 et seq. 

Hamflton. Mrs. {see Elizabeth 
Schuyler), difflcolties in iHiicfa she 
was left. 351 ; her life-long efforts 
to vindicate Handlton's reputa- 
tion, 352; her death. 353 

Hamflton. Allan McLane, 355 

Hamflton, James, his ancestry, 6; 
misoooeasfkii in business. 8 et seq.: 
oorreqiondence with his son, 10 

Hamflton, John Chnndi. 35, 47. 51. 
125. 131. 169. 353. 354 

Hamflton, PhiUp H.. kifled in duel. 

Hammcmd. George. British minis- 
ter, 289 

Hancock. John, 59 

Harrison, R. H., aide to Washing- 
ton. 58. 131 

"Hearts of Oak.'* militia company 
joined by Hamilton. 40 et seq. 

Henfleld, Gideon, acquittal of. 284 

Henry, Patrick. 191 

Hopkinson. Joseph, 352 

Howe, Gen.. 44. 45. 48. 50 

Howell. David, 151 

Huddy. Capt.. 133 

Hmne, David, on government, 83 

Hunt. Gaillard. 219 

Irving. Washington. 50 

Jackson, James, of Georgia, 237 
Jay. John, marries Miss Livingston, 
20; member of Continental Con- 
gress, 37; contributes to Tfie Fed- 
eralist, 203 ; negotiates treaty with 
England. 302; burned in efiOgy, 
303; his patriotic self-sacrifice, 
305; is consulted on Washington's 
Farewell Address, 308; offers U. S. 



Senatorship to Hamilton, 313: 
elected governor, 325; declines 
party tactics proposed by Hamil- 
ton, 336 

Jay treaty, ratified by Senate, 302; 
analyzed by Hamilton, 303; pop- 
ular rage against, 303; sustained 
by House of Representatives. 307 ; 
resented by French Government, 

Jefferson, Thomas, quotes story 
about Hamilton's convention rec- 
ord, 196; is appointed Secretary 
of State, 223; his nationalist 
views, 243 et seq.; deplores defeat 
of assumption, 244; arranges a 
bargain for its enactment, 245; 
holds creation of a national bank 
to be unconstitutional, 247; advo- 
cates strict-construction princi- 
ples, 249; advocates decimal sys- 
tem, 251; secures a newspaper 
organ, 260; malces overtures to 
Thomas Paine, 261; malces 
friendly advances to Hamilton, 
263; disturbed by State opposi- 
tion to assiunption, 264; recants 
and turns against Hamilton, 265; 
abets attacks on Hamilton, 266; 
tries to turn Washington against 
Hamilton, 267 et seq. ; abets Con- 
gressional war on Hamilton, 273; 
disappointment over result, 277; 
his attachment to France, 279 et 
seq. ; opposes a declaration of neu- 
trality, 282; favors unconditional 
reception of Gendt, 286; induces 
Madison to reply to "Paciflcus," 
288; complains of Gendt's beha- 
vior, 289; joins in demanding 
Gendt's recall, 290; offers his res- 
ignation, 292; leaves the Cabinet, 
295; his opposition to the Excise 
Law, 296; abets opposition to the 
Jay treaty, 303 et seq.; ignores 
personal charges, 310; tied with 
Burr for PresideDcy, 337 et seq.; 
his admiration for the Engiiib 
constitution, 358; his ideals com- 
pared with those of HamUtoo, 
266 et seq. 

Johnson, Sanrael, Dr., 3 

Jones, Samuel, 188 

Judic^ry. the, conflict beCweeo 
HamilUMi and Madisoo owet, 399 

Kin« of Franoe, 217 
Klng'> Ci/Aeeib, 21. 24, 42 

Knox, Henry, Gen., 134, 223, 286. 

320, 321, 322 
Knox, Hugh, Rev., 2, 13, 20, 27, 52, 


Lafayette, Marquis de. 98, 123. 125 

Lamb. John. Gen., 126. 165, 170, 
199, 204, 207 

Lanshig, John. 194, 196. 197, 199 

Laurens, Henry, 72 

Laurens, John, 76, 99, 100. 109, 127, 

Leake, Isaac Q., 170 

Ledyard, Isaac, 168 

Lee, Arthur, 145, 174 

Lee, Charles, Gen., 61, 62 

Lee, Henry, Gen., 125 

Lee, Will, Washington's body-seN 
vant, 60 

L'Enfant, Pierre, Major, 204 

Livermore, Samuel, of New Hamp- 
shire, 237, 240 

Livingston, Robert, 80 

Lodge, H. C, U. S. Senator, 360 

Louis XYI of France, 135, 281 

Luzerne, Chevalier de la, 69 

Lytton, Peter, maternal uncle of 
Hamilton, 9 

Maday, William, of Pennsylvaiiia, 
220, 236 

McHenry, James, of Maryland, 112, 
132, 321, 322, 323, 326 

Madison, James, on proceedings of 
Continental Congress, 145; his 
note of Hamilton's speech, 161; 
as to the Annapolis coorention, 
181 ; assists Hamilton in the FetU 
eralist series, 203; turns against 
Hamilton. 211 et seq.; hk poiHIcal 
principles, 218 et seq.; apV o m M 
Hamilton's plans, 222 et seq.; ad* 
vocates dlscrfminatioo amonir Um 
public creditors, 238 et seq.: op- 
poses assumptioa, 240; iotas to 
bargain for the Potomac ifte, 24i&; 
opposes the Bank of the VnHed 
States, 247 et seq.; his attitude on 
coteagedfsigns, 252; promotes gpo 
actment of tariff bfO with praC«0- 
tioolst features, 29«; visits PbMp 
Freneao, 200; desinsi Hmskmi 
Paloe's aid, 251; dhmppnnrm 

falls fa Hoe wUh HMUf ifliMiat,* 

264; tais daoipe oi froaH, 2m ei 

, t,«- ,f ■ , ----■■- - ^ *- -- 

■^^"^V . . BM^F ^^HMHW ^VS^^^VW ^HB^BV^^ AiV^W '^^F 

2s6ft ei 9t%.'^ 



a fBTOwell afddresB for Washing- 
ton, 272, 308; abets Congres- 
sional attack on Hamfltoo, 273 
et seq.; writes "Helvidius" arti- 
cles, 288 et seq.; declines to at- 
tempt a reply to Hamlltcm's 
"CamiUus** articles. 306; de- 
clines Adams's offer of French mis- 
sion, 317; favors subordination 
of States, 359 et seq.; his views as 
to functions of Senate, 361; op- 
poses manhood suffrage. 362; dis- 
tinguishes between a democracy 
and a republic, 364 

Malcolm, Col., 178. 187 et seq. 

Marshall, Chief Justice, 284 

Mason. George, of Vir8^[iia, 196, 269 

Mason. John M., Rev., 25, 352 

Meade, Col., one of Washington's 
aides. 129 

Mitchell. Mrs., an aunt of Hamil- 
ton, 9. 11, 344 

Monroe. James. 244. 245, 310, 311, 

Montesquieu. 216 et seq, 

Morris. Oouvemeur. 55. 80. 81, 347, 
349. 361 

Morris, Robert, delegate to Conti- 
nental Congress, 84; becomes 
Superintendent of Finance, 86 ; his 
difficulties with Congress, 88; ap- 
points Hamilton Continental Su- 
perintendent in New York, 135 
et seq.; finances the Yorktown 
campaign, 145; efforts to carry 
the impost, 148; raises money to 
pay the troops, 155; resigns, 174; 
refuses the Treasury portfolio, 
209; his official procedure, 216; 
bargains for national-capital site. 

Muhlenberg, Speaker, 310 et seq. 

National capital, Potomac site, 245 
Nevis, Hamilton's birthplace, 1, 19 
New England, Hamilton's regard 
for, 25 et seq. ; its sectional particu- 
larism, 145 
New York politics, family influence 
in, 333 

Oliver, Frederick Scott, 355 
Oswald, Eleazer, Col., challenges 

Hamilton, 170 
Otto, French chargfi d'affaires. 181 

Page, John, of Virginia. 214, 237, 

Paine, Thomas, 261 

Pickering, Timothy, 66, 326. 352. 

Pindmey. C. C. 320, 321, 323 
Pinckney, Thomas, 316 
Pitt, William, 256 
President, functions of, 217 
Princeton, battle of. 51 
Princeton University, 151 

Randall. H. S.. 354 

Randolph. Edmund, 181, 223, 247. 
272, 283, 286, 298, 299 

Reed, Joseph, 73 

Reynolds case, 310 et seq. 

Rivington, James, his press de- 
stroyed. 36 

Ratledge. John. 152 

St. Clair, Arthur, Gen., 220 

St. £:itts. Island of, 3. 19 

Schuyler, Elizabeth, meets Hamil- 
ton, 100; courted by him, 103 et 
seq.; marries him. 111; her diar- 
acter, 113. See Mrs. Hamilton 

Schuyler. Philip, G^en., HamilUm's 
father-in-law, 4; his family, 19; 
his career. 101 et seq. ; becomes in- 
timate with Hamilton, 103; his 
Albany mansion, 112; tries to dis- 
suade Hamilton ftt>m resigning. 
119; his activity hi N. Y. Senate. 
139; promotes Hamilton's elec- 
tion to Continental Congress, 
140; his political influence. 225; 
relates an anecdote of Hamilton, 
229; defeated for re-election to 
U. S. Senate, 332; death of. 351 

Seabury, Samuel, Rev. Dr., 30 

Sedgwick, Theodore, of Mass., 215, 

Shewkirk, Rev. Mr., his diary, 65 

Smith, Adam, 256 

Smith, William, of S. C. 276 

Society of the Cincinnati. 343. 352 

Steuben, Baron, 204 

Stirling. Lord, 43, 45 

Stone, WUliam, of Maryland. 240 

Sugar-cane, poem on, 3 

Sullivan, John, Gen., 85 

Sullivan, William, reminiscences by, 

Sumner, W. G., 88, 147, 355 

Supreme Court of U. S.. 248 

Switzerland, 92, 359 

Talleyrand, 319 

Tilghman, Tench, Col., 100. 122 

Trenton, surprise of, 51 



Troup, Robert, daasmate of Ham- 
ilton, 24; his remlnlacences. 26, 
34, 40; captured by British, 45; 
aids Hamilton's legal studies, 131 ; 
his political cooperation, 178; ad- 
vises Hamilton against taking 
office, 209; censures Hamilton's 
indiscretion, 328 ; supports Yates's 
candidacy, 331 

Varlck. Richard, 164, 186, 187 et seq. 
Venable, Abraham. 310 et seq. 

Wadsworth, commissary-general, 75 
War of the Revolution, its conduct, 
67; effects of Congressional inter- 
ference, 77; the Yorktown cam- 
paign, 122 et seq. 
Washington, George, his forces for 
defense of New York, 44; his re- 
treat, 46; fights battle of Harlem 
Heights, 48; retreats into New 
Jersey, 50; attacks Hessians at 
Trenton, 51 ; his personal appear- 
ance, 55; his difficulties over staff 
appointments, 57; scenes at his 
headquarters, 60; sends Hamilton 
on a mission to Gates, 61; de- 
nounces General Lee, 61; his 
opinion of militia, 60; his reports 
to Congress on army conditions, 
76; Congressional cabal against, 
98; Mrs. Washington joins him at 
Morristown. 102; accidentally of- 
fends Hamilton, 114; his embar- 
rassments in the Asgill case, 134; 
correspondence with Hamilton on 
army grievances, 153-155, 173, 
176; his circular letter to State 
governors, 175; plans Che^pec^ 
& Ohio canal, 177; invites State 
commissioners to Mt. Vernon, 
178; Gov. Clinton's support of, 
190; responds to Hamilton's ap- 
peal, 201; reluctance to accepting 

Presidency, 207; makes cabinet 
appohitments. 223; his depen- 
dence on Madison, 225 et seq.\ 
asks Madison to prepare veto of 
Bank Bill, 247; his scruples re- 
moved by Hamilton's argument. 
248 et seq. ; ignores Jefferson's ob- 
jections to a military academy, 
249; action on chai^ against 
Hamiltcm, 270; favors assump- 
tion, 271; desires to retire from 
public life, 271 et seq.; requests 
cabinet opinions on French de- 
mands, 280; resents attacks of 
Gendt's sympathizers, 286; har- 
assed by dissensions in his Cabi- 
net, 290; applies to Supreme 
Court for advice, 290; break- 
up of his Cabinet, 292; opinion 
on the Whiskey Insurrection, 
297; applies to Hamilton on 
the Jay treaty, 302; asks Hamil- 
ton to prepare his Farewell Ad- 
dress, 307; takes command of 
army at Adams's request, 320; 
controversy with Adams over 
army appointments, 320 et seq.; 
death of, 325 ; his esteem of Ham- 
ilton, 368, 370 

West Indies, relation to America, 1 : 
style of living in, 2; settlers in, 4; 
political conditions in, 16 et seq, 

Whigs, prescriptive policy of, 101 

Whiskey Insurrection, 296 et seq. 

White, PhiUp, 133 

Wolcott, Oliver, of Connecticut, 315 

Wolcott, Oliver, Secretary of Trea- 
sury, 315, 324, 326 

Woodhull, Nathaniel, 38 

X Y Z dispatches, 319, 324 

Yates, Robert, 194, 196, 197, 199, 

200 331 
Yellow fever, in Philadelphia, 291